Waitsfield has renewed its town mask requirement, calling for people to wear face masks in indoor spaces that are open to the public.
The board, at its January 10 meeting renewed the rule for 30 days. It was originally adopted almost 45 days ago. At this week’s meeting, board members discussed the positive feedback some had received from local business owners.
“I’ve gotten positive comments from several people. I was in Bisbee’s and there were relatively no masks until after they posted a sign about Waitsfield’s mask requirement and then people were wearing them,” board member Brian Shupe said.
The board made minor edits to the previous version of the mask rule and adopted a definition of mask. That definition is “a medical or nonmedical face covering worn over an individual’s nose and mouth that complies with recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the case of individuals with a medical condition complicated or irritated by a mask or cloth face covering, a translucent shield or sneeze guard is acceptable in lieu of a mask or other cloth facial covering.”
The minor amendments clarify that businesses can create their own stricter standards at their discretion (such as requirement of proof of vaccination) and exempting private areas of public spaces such as an employee lunchroom. Masks are not required for children under 2 years old, and for vaccinated performers on stage with sufficient space or a barrier between them and the audience members. People who are eating and drinking in any restaurant or bar are allowed to remove their masks.
The board’s vote to renew the rule was unanimous. Prior to this week’s meeting, the board received several letters and emails from community members asking that the mask requirement be lifted or made voluntary.
John Barkhausen, Warren, emailed the board and urged the board to make masking voluntary. “Aside from the fact that there are no randomized controlled trials showing masking efficacy for any respiratory viruses, involuntary health mandates are a violation of our rights at U.S. citizens under the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights and medical informed consent, he wrote.
Lisa Schermerhorn, Fayston, also advocated for voluntary masking.
“I ask that masks and vaccines are by choice only and not allow businesses to discriminate. It doesn’t make sense that the town of Stowe, who also has people from out of state visiting does not require mandates and Waitsfield does. I’m worried that mandates will hurt businesses and I’m also concerned about the impact it has on children,” she wrote.
Geri Procaccini, Fayston, questioned the messaging in an email to the board. She noted that prior to the town mask rule, there was a sign at Mehuron’s asking people to wear masks and she said she complied because it is the right of a business owner to request masks.
“But now I’m seeing signs at businesses around town saying: Masks are required per the Waitsfield Select Board. What sends a more positive message? Mandates to wear a mask that, according to several studies done recently, does nothing to stop the spread of COVID unless it’s a surgical mask, isn’t helping end the pandemic, so what is the reason for it? Please consider rescinding this mandate. Mandating medical practices that are not on science but on emotions just doesn’t make sense,” Procaccini wrote.
Karen Rowell, Burlington, emailed the board and said the town’s mask rule prevented her from Christmas shopping in Waitsfield last month.
“My family and friends and I used to love Christmas shopping in Waitsfield – now that you’ve passed a mask mandate, that is off the table. I am so bummed that other towns beside the idiots who run Burlington are falling for this nonsense. I will be boycotting any town that imposes mask mandates or vaccine mandates one year for every month the draconian mandates are imposed,” Rowell wrote.
The town also received a letter from the Vermont Retail and Grocers Association clarifying that retail employees are not required to enforce masking rules.