By Ingrid Lackey-Howell and Hadley Laskowski
In light of new legislation regarding Vermont’s travel restrictions, the Warren Select Board added new regulations to the town’s policies regarding face masks. Now face masks are required in all public retail spaces and restaurants. Before the mandate only applied to municipal buildings.
During his COVID-19 update at the board’s June 30 meeting, emergency management director Jeff Campbell reported that certain counties in New England, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio, that have less than 400 active cases per one million residents can now travel to Vermont without quarantining. “It greatly increases the number of people that are going to be able to come and not have to quarantine whatsoever,” said Campbell, who pointed out that people from quarantine-mandated counties might not quarantine upon arrival to Vermont. “It’s an honor system. We hope that they do the right thing,” said Campbell.
Given Campbell’s comments, select board member Bob Ackland agreed it would be best to institute a mask-wearing requirement. “It’s really about stepping up and leading the way. It’s really just reinforcing the fact that this is the right thing to do,” said Ackland.
This new requirement means that, in the case of indoor dining, masks must be worn into restaurants. There are already social distancing regulations in place for restaurants (e.g. tables being 10 feet apart, contact tracing), but customers are now required to wear their masks until they are seated.
“If nothing else, this does say we take this seriously. This is our community, we respect the members of our community and we’d like you to respect us too,” said select board member Camilla Behn. To this, select board member Luke Youmell mentioned that the mask requirement helps retailers who might have been hesitant about implementing state guidelines. “Now they have not only the state behind them, but the town,” said Youmell.
Campbell summed up the importance and simplicity of mask wearing when he said, “If kids are going to be required to wear masks whether it’s elementary school, middle school, high school, college, why can’t the adults? It’s not asking a lot.”
In addition to requiring face masks in all public and retail spaces in Warren, select board members made several other decisions at the meeting. After hearing multiple complaints about speeding on Plunkton Road, Warren Select Board members agreed to put up two flashing speed limit signs on Plunkton. In addition to the signs, the town will direct a law enforcement officer to patrol the road more frequently. “I asked him to sit in the truck turnaround and between Lois Lane and the lake,” said town administrator Cindi Jones.
Finally, the town agreed to hire a fifth road crew member. The cost of this position was included in the budget passed by voters at Town Meeting in March. The position opened after the town recently fired its road foreman and promoted another road crew member to the managerial position, leaving the town with just four instead of five road crew staff.
“For the last 15 years we’ve had five road crew members. We have issues with them being able to take vacation in the summer, since they’re not allowed to take vacation during snow season. We’re always shorthanded with our road crew during this time of year,” said select board chair Andrew Cunningham.