Seeing no action from governor, Vt. Legislature plans for targeted mask mandates
MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - With Vermont COVID case counts higher than ever, some towns are pushing to put health restrictions in place to keep residents safe. But with the governor unwilling to declare another state of emergency, that leaves only the Legislature to take action.
As coronavirus cases continue to soar, the Vermont League of Cities and Towns is calling on the governor to allow municipalities to create their own mask mandates. “Maybe the best thing to do is to allow municipalities to impose a general mask mandate in their community if they are in a community with a significant increase in cases,” said VLCT’s Karen Horn.
Burlington and Brattleboro passed mask mandates in the fall, but without the formal state of emergency in place, they were batted down by Governor Phil Scott. Vermont lawmakers have also appealed for targetted mask mandate but the governor has said he is wary of abusing his emergency powers and instead urged Vermonters to use “personal responsibility.”
“Wearing masks in certain indoor settings, being smart about gatherings, understanding vaccination status of people if you’re going to have a gathering - simple common-sense steps that we can take to move forward at this stage of the pandemic where so many people are vaccinated,” said Scott Spokesman Jason Maulucci. He adds that Vermont has remained a frontrunner in vaccinations, boosters, and shots for children.
Without the governor’s go-ahead, localized masking would have to be approved by the Legislature and lawmakers can only reconvene before January if they set a special session or the governor calls them back.
“January is two months away, and when we return we will evaluate the needs to keep our communities safe and take action to provide health and safety protections for Vermonters. That being said, I still strongly urge the governor to take action now and not wait any longer,” said House Speaker Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington.
The Senate is also preparing to pass legislation. Senate President Becca Balint, D-Windham County, in a statement says she’s requested a meeting with the governor, saying the administration’s plan is not working and “Vermont cannot afford to wait another day.”
But it’s difficult to know what the state’s cases and hospitalizations will look like in two months. “We think it’s well worth the governor and the Legislature’s time to revisit this issue,” Horn said. She says the VLCT is also planning to ask lawmakers to conduct selectboard and Town Meeting Day virtually.
Senate President Becca Balint, D-Windham County, in a statement says she’s requested a meeting with the governor, saying the administration’s plan is not working and “Vermont cannot afford to wait another day.”
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