BRATTLEBORO — On a 4-1 vote, the Brattleboro Selectboard has decided to lift its yearlong Covid-19 mask order as of Friday, June 4, and allow fully vaccinated people to follow new federal and state rules.
“The disconnect between policies right now is causing confusion,” Selectman Daniel Quipp said at an online meeting Tuesday, “and that confusion tends to lead to some kind of conflict.”
Gov. Phil Scott, following updated rules from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has dropped the state’s mask and physical distancing requirements for fully vaccinated Vermonters — although they remain for people who are unvaccinated as well as for municipalities, businesses, schools, public transportation, health and long-term care facilities and prisons that choose to retain them.
Scott’s announcement has sparked a mixed reaction in Vermont cities and towns with their own mandates. The state capital of Montpelier will lift its order on June 15. Vergennes has decided to retain its directive. And Burlington will consider its own action at its next city council meeting on Monday.
In Brattleboro, weekly Covid-19 cases dropped last month from 17 to 3.
“The numbers are very encouraging,” Town Manager Peter Elwell said.
But Vermont’s seventh-largest locality is the southern gateway exit off Interstate 91 and gets much tourist traffic from other parts of the nation.
“I’m wondering who we’re serving if we do away with this mask mandate,” Selectwoman Jessica Gelter said. “It’s not the kids who are unvaccinated. It’s not the immunocompromised people who still feel like they can’t leave their houses. It’s people who just don’t want to wear a mask, and I cannot conscionably go along with that.”
Gelter conducted a Facebook poll and found a majority of constituents — headed by parents with children and people who work with the public — supported the mask mandate.
But Gelter’s four colleagues said the order had outlived its purpose.
“The argument that we should wait would be powerful to me if there was evidence that there was clear and present danger right now,” Selectman Tim Wessel said. “But if we say we’re following the science to put the mask order in place, we have to also recognize the science that tells us when it’s time to let it go.”
The selectboard, which has met on public video conference platforms for the past year, is exploring how to return to in-person gatherings as soon as this summer while retaining public online access.
“I think the future is the hybrid model,” Selectman Ian Goodnow said.
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