A year and a half after the Montpelier City Council approved an indoor mask mandate for the first time, it’s voted to approve a second mandate. This took place on a day with six newly-reported COVID-19 deaths statewide.
The council members voted unanimously to mandate face coverings inside all buildings within the city limits that are open to the public. Some residents said this reinforces the idea that the safety of everyone in the city is valued.
“Not having masking causes, I think, a real crumbling of a sense of community and trust in others,” Diane Sophrin said. “Everyone, as I walk around town, everyone becomes suspect to me.”
One Montpelier man called a mask mandate “a fool’s errand”. The reasons he cited included jurisdictional issues regarding the city’s many state-owned buildings.
“This is like political correctness run amok,” Steve Whitaker added. “It’s totally unenforceable. The City Police are not going to go write tickets for masks, and the State’s Attorney has already said he’s not going to prosecute any of these.”
Most of those who spoke at Wednesday night’s meeting felt otherwise.
“There’s good data from other states with mask mandates that these increase the use of masks, even recognizing enforcement challenges and everything,” Councilor Lauren Hierl said. “The CDC right now is very clear that if you have transmission at the levels that we have, they urge communities to have indoor mask mandates.”
As stipulated by state law, Montpelier’s mandate is now in place for 45 days. The City Council then has the ability to extend it for 30 days at a time if it wishes.
“All of us, every day, give up public choice in lieu of public safety when we stop at a stop sign, when we stop at a red light, when people have to go outside to smoke at a restaurant — any number of things that government mandates for the public good to protect all of us,” City Manager Bill Fraser said. “Those, for whatever reason, don’t seem to get people riled up over their rights, and this does, and I don’t understand it.”