Montpelier makes masks mandatory in public businesses

Published: Jun. 4, 2020 at 6:13 AM EDT
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There's no state law requiring customers to wear masks when they visit Vermont businesses. But some local governments like Brattleboro, Burlington and South Burlington are taking matters into their own hands. As our Olivia Lyons reports, Montpelier has now joined them.

On Wednesday, the Montpelier City Council voted in favor of requiring masks in all buildings in Montpelier. The order went into effect Thursday.

"It was a general feeling amongst our business community that masks were preferable and they wanted to make sure there was an even playing field for all businesses," Montpelier City Manager Bill Fraser said.

Businesses are expected to enforce the emergency order.

"They would ask them to leave or provide them a mask or have the person put on a mask. If the person did not do that they could call the police and say this person needs to be removed," Montpelier Police Chief Anthony Facos said.

Businesses have until next Monday to put up signs showing the requirement. It does not apply to those who can't wear a mask due to a medical condition or children under the age of 2.

"I just personally think it's a courtesy to your neighbor and why not," said Kelly Sullivan, a Montpelier store owner.

Most of the people I spoke with think the order is needed.

"It upsets me when I see people entering general stores or gas stations not wearing a mask because I think we need to support each other and if we can stay healthy by just wearing a mask, it's simple," said Dee Gish, who works in Montpelier.

Reporter Olivia Lyons: Do you hope more towns and cities will follow suit?

Chyenne Rielly/Barre: I think it would be smart.

But some people still think it should be a choice.

"It's not acceptable to ask people in general to wear any type of clothing in the United States of America. We have a freedom of choice. You're not supposed to be able to do that," said Bonnie Alexander of Montpelier.

"It's a free country, that doesn't mean you have the freedom to infect somebody. You don't know if you have it or not," said Jorean Mensah of Montpelier.

There were many people who said they do not support wearing masks in buildings, but they again refused to speak with me on camera.

The order will be in effect until the City Council amends, rescinds or suspends the order, or until the governor declares an end to the COVID-19 State of Emergency in Vermont, whichever happens first.