At their respective select board meetings on Monday and Tuesday night, Moretown and Warren board members discussed how to move forward with their town mask policies now that the mandate has been removed for fully vaccinated individuals on the state level.
In Moretown, the discussion was brief. Select board chair Tom Martin emphasized compliance with official guidelines as they change. “I say follow the science,” he stated, noting that residents did the same when the mask mandate was first imposed. After agreeing to remove the mandate for vaccinated individuals without caveat, it was quickly put into action.
“Who is that?” Martin joked, removing his mask and glancing around the room at his fellow board members.
Their first in-person meeting since the pandemic began, the mood was positive. The decision itself took only a matter of minutes, and the board mainly focused their efforts on upcoming projects such as new communications infrastructure and library redevelopment.
In Warren, the discussion on masks was lengthier. While the board seemed to agree upon following state guidelines, they also pointed to other considerations. Select board member and planning commissioner Camilla Behn, for example, expressed concern on behalf of constituents who might not feel comfortable with the removal.
“If we don’t put any conditions on [the mandate],” she asked, “are we really advocating for [the public’s] safety?”
But there also seemed to be some confusion about the municipal government’s ability to impose tighter restrictions. A frequent talking point of the conversation was Amendment 16 to Executive Order 01-20, which states:
“The legislative body of each municipality may enact more strict local requirements regarding mask use than those set forth herein (p. 4).”
In response to this, the Warren Select Board opted for a compromise. While board members shared public concern regarding vaccine accountability, they sought to remain in keeping with universal guidance. The preceding amendment allowed them to do both: by keeping a mask mandate in place for those visiting municipal buildings. From the board member’s perspective, it allowed them to advocate for public health concerns without stepping outside their jurisdiction regarding private individuals and businesses.
But with the state so close to 80% vaccinated, many anticipated a full reopening as soon as Friday – leaving local leaders with more decisions to make in the coming days.