Burlington taking steps to slow delta surge

Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 6:24 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The city of Burlington Friday announced new COVID measures to counter the surge in delta variant infections.

In his first virtual briefing since July, Mayor Miro Weinberger announced changes to masking and vaccine requirements for city employees and laid the framework for more changes if necessary. “The delta variant is very much driving this increase in cases,” Weinberger said.

Case numbers in Burlington and throughout the state have been on the increase since the start of the month with Chittenden County leading the way with daily counts not seen since the peak of the pandemic this spring. “The number of cases that we’re seeing has been growing and we think that’s because of the delta variant. The delta variant is twice as transmissible as the original agent of COVID-19 and so it just spreads much more quickly. Even with quick contacts, it can spread from person to person,” said UVM Medical Center’s Dr. Tim Lahey.

Weinberger says all city employees will be required to wear masks indoors and while working with members of the public until Chittenden County reaches a moderate transmission level of the virus. They must also either get vaccinated or participate in weekly PCR testing.

“This policy is something that we’ve put quite a bit of work into. We’ve worked with our public employee unions to try to get an agreement about it, and frankly, we still have some discussion going on with them, we’re still in a conversation. But the policy is now in place,” Weinberger

The mayor says changes to masking policy could be coming for the general public as well, but right now it remains a recommendation to wear masks in indoor public spaces.

Some people we spoke to say more restrictions are needed, but others disagree. “I personally do not like wearing the masks at all and I do have a lot of sadness around the fact that we’re going to have to be masked up again a lot more. I think, for me, that is quite outweighed by contributing to a safer situation for the collective,” said Nina Smolyar of Burlington.

“Having a mask on constantly throughout the day and the only break you get is at lunch but you still have to sit six feet away from all of your friends, like no contact -- it’s difficult,” said Jordan Hargraves, a local student.

“If it’s for the greater good to wear masks inside, then I think it’s a great option if we can just do that,” said Livia Burnhardt, a local resident.

The mayor says he hopes to host a town hall with businesses next week to discuss masking in the city.

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