Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has ordered that masks be worn in public, effective Aug. 1.
Hinesburg had been considering passing a mask resolution and Shelburne just passed one.
Hinesburg Selectboard Chair Phil Pouech said he doubts the town will pass a mask resolution “now that the governor has done what I think is the right thing.”
The Shelburne resolution will stay in effect until the Shelburne Selectboard votes to rescind it. The town’s manager, Lee Krohn, said he does not think it will be rescinded for the time being.
“This is very helpful for Shelburne and other towns that have passed mask resolutions in reinforcing the act at a broader level,” Krohn said.
In his press conference Friday, the governor said Vermont has fewer positive COVID-19 tests than any other state when statistics are adjusted for population.
He said Vermont has one of the best testing programs.
But, he said, the virus appears to be traveling east and north from the western and southern states where the numbers of people with the virus is growing.
Although the governor said he had heard reports of noncompliance with wearing masks in public, the numbers show that people are cooperating for the most part.
“We need to be sure we are protecting the gains we’ve made. We want to keep moving forward. No one wants to retreat. Outbreaks across the states may be spreading toward us, inching toward the Northeast and closer to our borders,” he said.
He said that children under 2-years-old are excluded by his order, as are people with health or developmental issues. Masks are not required when eating or drinking.
Someone in public without a mask is not required to have documentation proving they have an exempt condition. Requiring documentation would violate their healthcare rights, Gov. Scott said.
The governor said he is worried the mask mandate could cause conflict and resistance.
“Let’s give each other the benefit of a doubt,” he said.
In Hinesburg, Lantman’s Market Front-of-Store Supervisor Bridget Davis said, “We have maybe one or two complaints a week.”
Most people show up to shop already wearing their masks, and the store staff have heard much more support for the mask requirement than opposition.
“We’ve had less than a handful of customers upset about it,” Davis said.
Lantman’s sells masks, but for those who don’t have them the store has disposable masks for free.
During public comment at the Hinesburg Selectboard meeting, comments were almost all in support of a mask resolution. The board received one letter of opposition.
“Studies have shown face masks to cause decreased levels of oxygen in the blood dampening the body’s immune system and decreasing cognitive function,” Laura Capps wrote in her letter opposing the resolution.
“Immunologists have documented the importance of us continuously sharing low-levels of germs to allow our immune systems to gradually adjust to viruses within the community. I am concerned that requiring face masks will increase illness in our community by negativity impacting our immunity and will be dangerous for our children and our seniors,” Capps wrote.
Rustic Roots, Folino’s Wood Fired Pizza and the Shelburne Tap in Shelburne all said they had heard few, if any, complaints about the mask requirement.
“I’ve not heard any complaints at all,” Greg Alexopoulos, assistant manager at Folino’s, said.
Shelburne Tap House Manager Anna Kinzly said, “A few people complained about it when we first opened for dine in a month ago. People have been very accommodating. We pretty much don’t have to tell them to wear a mask.”
Karen Horn with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns said she heard 18 towns had passed mask resolutions before the governor’s executive order.
Gov. Scott has said he heard from people who were embarrassed to wear a mask into a store where no one is wearing one. They have told him it would be easier to wear a mask if there was someone they could blame.
“If that rests on my shoulders, and we get better compliance and we get through this, I’ll take that responsibility,” he said.