Burlington businesses and entertainment venues will begin requiring masks for customers and employees Friday, two days after City Council unanimously approved an indoor mandate over raucous opposition from protestors.
The guidance applies to all Burlington businesses and organizations, except those with a vaccine mandate, schools and places of worship. Exceptions also apply to those under age 2 and anyone with a medical condition that is complicated or irritated by a facial covering.
Bars, restaurants, gyms and places of worship that screen and limit entry to those with proof of vaccination for Covid-19 are also excluded from the mandate.
“I know one of the data that influenced the council was reports from the University of Vermont Medical Center that are having a problem with the availability of ICU beds,” said Kelly Devine, executive director of the Burlington Business Association.. “That’s always been a very significant concern with this virus,”
Jason Everette, who works at the Vermont Flannel Company, said the Church Street shop welcomes the new mandate.
“I say it’s a good idea,” he said. “We’ve been doing it in the store for a while now, even since it was lifted. Let me put it this way, it can’t hurt and it might help.”
According to the Vermont Leagues of Cities and Towns, Burlington is one of four cities with a mask mandate. The state’s third largest city Rutland will take up the issue next week, but Mayor Dave Allaire is against the idea.
“I continue to be non-supportive of a mask mandate for several reasons,” Allaire said. “One being that it’s unenforceable. And second, seeing a fellow community put in a mask mandate just recently, it was very plain to see that folks who are masked, are going to remain masked. Those who do not believe in masking will remain unmasked.”
Many people say they’ll embrace the new guidance.
“I am absolutely in favor of doing what’s best for the community and for the people that I live around so I will absolutely wear a mask,” said Burlington resident Siera Barton.
On Friday, the city will provide businesses with updated mask signs at City Hall. According to the Mayor’s office, the mandate will be enforced by Burlington Police. Failure to comply is considered a criminal offense and store owners will face escalating fines.