Since the Vermont Legislature passed a bill on November 23 allowing towns to opt to institute mask mandates, towns across the state have been discussing whether the move is right for them. Warren passed a mask mandate last week and, this week, Waitsfield became the second town in the Mad River Valley to do so. 

A mask mandate was not approved in Moretown. The Waterbury Select Board heard public comments, discussed the matter and decided not to take any action on a local mandate. Most of the approximate 40 people who attended the Waterbury board's December 6 meeting were opposed to a mandate, while a reader survey by the Waterbury Roundabout news site found support from 78% of 200 people who responded.  





Waitsfield’s mask mandate applies to all businesses with the following exceptions: parts of buildings not accessible to the public (such as employee break rooms), actors in theaters, private appointments and employees protected by plexiglas. The mandate will be in place for 45 days and will be revisited by the select board at that time. As with Warren’s mask mandate, there is no plan in place to enforce the mandate.

Waitsfield residents shared their thoughts on the proposed mask mandate at the select board’s December 6 meeting and via written testimony.


Curt Lindberg, Waitsfield, wrote to the select board on November 23, as soon as the bill allowing towns to issue mask mandates was passed, urging the board to hold a meeting to discuss a mask mandate. “More than ever we need local officials to take leadership positions on effective prevention measures. As we witnessed earlier in the pandemic, most Vermonters will follow,” he wrote. He also spoke at the meeting in favor of taking action to reduce community transmission of COVID-19.




Lisa Schermerhorn, who practices hypnosis in Waitsfield, said it’s hard to hear and breathe when wearing masks and gives her clients the option of wearing them if they so choose. “Everything seems to be working right now in the community,” she said.

Lauren Kaskey appeared at the meeting via Zoom with her baby in her lap and urged the select board to approve the mask mandate. With two children under the age of 5 who are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, Kaskey said she can’t enter businesses not enforcing a mask mandate and asked the town to protect families like hers with young children. “It would be really good for this town’s economy to require masks,” she said. In response to Schermerhorn’s comment, she added that things are not currently working, as Vermont has one of the highest rates of COVID cases in the country.

Susan Hoyt wrote to the board, “Please, please, do everything you can to get a mask mandate for Waitsfield. Many of us feel we really need that. It sure would lessen stress and lessen the chances of more cases of COVID.”


Ann Sigseby called a mask mandate “overreaching” and “a witch hunt.” “If we bring too many rules it takes away from the sense of respect people have for each other,” she said.

Alice Peal spoke of the need for protection against COVID for people, like her, with preexisting conditions.

Eric Sigsbey of Sugarhouse Soundworks said a mask mandate for a music studio is “neither necessary nor practical.” He said many businesses already require masks and he tries to be respectful of mask needs. He said the mandate “seems excessive and unnecessary.”


Marci Robinson, Warren, of the Valley Players board, requested that, if a mask mandate was approved, there be an exception for actors on stage at the theater. That exemption was included in the mask mandate.

Jennifer Stella was present in-person and spoke passionately against a mask mandate. “I oppose your making a decision about my body,” she said. “I’m already having trouble breathing with a mask.” She then removed her mask (though masks are required in the town office) and was asked to put it back on. Stella founded Health Choice Vermont, an organization that advocates for Vermonters’ rights to refuse consent for medical interventions, such as vaccinations and masks. She said people feel silenced about mask mandates and said the science is clear that masks and COVID-19 tests don’t work, calling these measures a “medical experiment.” She was again told to put her mask back on.

Geri Procaccini said, “The mandate seems pointless to me,” and that she has been unable to find scientific evidence about the efficacy of masks.

J. Todd White also said he’d been unable to find science backing up mask-wearing. “I encourage everybody to look at the science,” he said, adding that there is no efficacy in masks and that they may even have negative effects. “This whole situation has become deeply divisive,” he said. “I strongly encourage the town not to adopt a mask mandate.” He added that, if adopted, he encouraged a universal mask mandate that does not discriminate based on vaccine status.





Michael Hock spoke in favor of the mandate. “This is a situation where we have to put the message out that we’re going to do whatever possible to reduce spread,” he said.

Select board chair Christine Sullivan said that she was concerned with community spread of COVID-19 as The Valley heads into the area’s peak tourist season.

Select board member Chach Curtis urged the board to be consistent with the rest of The Valley, noting that tourists don’t differentiate between Warren, Waitsfield, Fayston and other towns in The Valley. He encouraged the board to send a signal to the community about safety measures Valley-wide.

Select board member Jordan Gonda said, “It’s a very personal issue for everybody. This is the tool that’s been provided with the lack of a statewide approach. The purpose is to slow and limit community spread. This is the expectation in an effort to keep our community safe.”

The board unanimously passed the mask mandate. It will revisit the mandate in 45 days.