Burlington City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Wednesday night requiring masking in indoor public settings with some exceptions.
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger sought approval of a mask ordinance after the recent surge of COVID-19 cases in Vermont. The mayor's proposal required universal masking in indoor public settings, including on public transportation, with an exception for businesses and organizations that require proof of vaccination for all patrons and employees.
The ordinance passed by the council had one amendment which requires universal masking in retail stores and theaters, regardless of vaccination status. The amendment excludes performers in theaters if they are vaccinated. Restaurants, bars and gyms still have the option of not requiring masks if they verify all patrons and employees have proof of vaccination.
Places of worship and Burlington public schools will be exempt from the mandate. The Burlington School District has its own rules that require masking for staff and students.
People who opposed the mask mandate continually interrupted council deliberations during the Wednesday meeting.
Councilor Joan Shannon said she was sympathetic to those opposed the mandate but did not like the audience's behavior.
"Screaming and shouting at this council isn't likely to yield the result that you want," she said.
The mandate comes after the state Legislature passed a bill allowing municipalities to adopt temporary indoor mask mandates.
Since June 14, Burlington has gone without a public mask mandate. In the beginning of November, however, the number of COVID cases rose by 55% in two weeks in Vermont which Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine mainly blamed on the highly contagious Delta variant. Wednesday brought news of the newest variant, Omicron, being found in the United States.
Vermont reported its highest number of hospitalizations from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic Tuesday. A total of 84 people were hospitalized, with 22 in intensive care, according to the Vermont Department of Health.
Unvaccinated people made up 71% of the hospitalizations and 81% of critical care stays over the last seven days, according to state data.
While Chittenden County has the most COVID cases, it is also the most populated county by far and has one of the lowest rates of cases per 100,000 people in the state, according to Vermont Department of Health data.
City Council will reconsider the mask mandate after 30 days and may suspended the ordinance if the risk of COVID-19 transmission in Chittenden County drops to a “moderate” level as defined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The ordinance would end no later than April 30, 2022.
Contact Urban Change Reporter Lilly St. Angelo at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @lilly_st_ang
This article originally appeared on Burlington Free Press: Burlington mask mandate: City council passes mandate with exceptions