Burlington mayor considers reinstating city-wide mask mandate

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BURLINGTON, Vt. – The City of Burlington is joining a growing list of employers now mandating vaccines.

City employees will have to get their shots by October 8th, or submit to weekly PCR testing as an alternative.

“Really I hope many employers, all employers consider putting a comparable policy in place,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “I know that many are, so hopefully this can be a helpful tool if you are one of those organizations.”

In addition to Burlington’s new vaccine mandate for city employees, masking will be required indoors when members of the public are around regardless of vaccination status.

This follows a city-wide recommendation to wear masks indoors for the general public, and on Friday we learned that recommendation could have a little more weight behind it over the coming weeks.

“We are considering going further, having some kind of reinstatement of a mask mandate as we had through much of the pandemic, or a policy like that,” Mayor Weinberger said.

Weinberger plans to meet with local businesses and nonprofits to discuss the possibility and level of interest in changing the guidance.

This comes as the unvaccinated feel the brunt of the Delta spread – Dr. Tim Lahey, an infectious disease physician at UVM Medical Center, described what the surge looks like on the inside.

“Increases in the number of people being hospitalized in the regular hospital, as well as hospitalized in the ICU,” Dr. Lahey said. “Around half of the hospitalizations that we’re seeing in the area are people who are desperately ill and need to be in the intensive care unit.”

Lahey said about 85 to 90 percent of those developing serious disease from the Delta variant are unvaccinated.

Meagan Tuttle, Burlington’s COVID-19 response leader, said the surge is also showing up in Burlington’s wastewater testing.

“It just helps us to understand that we are seeing more virus here in the community, and helps us continue to communicate about the importance of things like vaccination and testing and helping people find information about those resources here in Burlington,” Tuttle said.

There will also be a vaccine mandate going into effect at long-term care facilities in Burlington, but that was put in place at the federal level. The city will be working with those facilities to ensure they have enough support to get in line with those requirements.

“In recent weeks I have worked to raise and address concerns about the growing risks to our vulnerable, elderly residents of Burlington Skilled Nursing Facilities where we have already experienced too much tragedy during this pandemic,” Weinberger said. “The City’s site visits to Burlington’s three SNFs have reassured me that great care is being taken to protect those facilities during this period of high virus transmission.  The City will continue to support our senior service providers in doing all they can to prevent avoidable deaths. I want the families of elderly residents in Burlington facilities to know that we will continue working to keep your loved ones safe.” 

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