Health Care

Burlington City Council votes to rescind mask mandate

Diallo House brings his bass and his amp to the stage during the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival on Saturday, June 5, 2021. Pop-up vaccination sites are expected to take place this weekend at the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Keep ’em off: Masks are no longer mandatory for fully vaccinated people in the Queen City, indoors or out.

City Council members voted Monday night to rescind the mask mandate they passed more than a year ago, taking Burlington a step closer to normal life post-pandemic. 

Effective Tuesday morning, when Mayor Miro Weinberger is expected to sign the resolution, face coverings will not be required in retail stores and city buildings for individuals who have received their final Covid-19 shot. Weinberger’s Covid-19 emergency order, though, remains in place until June 15.

The decision brings Burlington in line with state and federal guidance adopted in May. According to those guidelines, masks are required in public for partially or non-vaccinated people, as well as in certain settings, such as health care facilities, correctional facilities and on public transportation. 

Gov. Phil Scott’s statewide emergency order remains in place as Vermont inches closer to its goal of getting one shot in the arms of 80% of eligible residents. 

Scott has said he will lift all Covid-19 restrictions once the state hits that mark, though he has yet to provide more details about how exactly the state order will be lifted.

Councilors previously tabled Burlington’s resolution to nullify the mask mandate at a May 17 meeting, against Weinberger’s wishes.

Councilor Sarah Carpenter, D-Ward 4, said Monday she thought the council did the right thing by waiting to rescind its mandate. Chittenden County’s first-shot rate among 18-29 year olds, which gave councilors pause last month, had since increased, Carpenter said. 

She also said the city’s recent pop-up vaccination sites were a creative idea and that she hopes they will continue going forward.

Weinberger said pop-up vaccination sites would take place this coming weekend during the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival. He called the region’s recent pandemic trends “quite encouraging.” 

“The administration of course continues to support the council taking this action,” he said of rescinding the mandate, “and giving yet another reason for individuals who have not yet gotten vaccinated to consider doing so.” 

Highway study and other business

Councilors also passed a resolution Monday requesting that the Chittenden County I-89 2050 Study, also known as Envision I-89, stop examining ways to increase capacity — or maintain pre-Covid-19 capacity — for cars on the highway.

Instead, the study should focus on ways to reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled as well as “create a safer, more equitable and more sustainable transportation system in Chittenden County,” the resolution stated.

Councilor Jane Stromberg, P-Ward 8, said changing the study’s focus would give Burlington an opportunity to be a leader among cities during the climate crisis and makes sense given how commuting patterns changed during the pandemic.

“This to me is a very healthy and almost natural shift given the crisis that we’re in,” she said.

In other business, councilors heard an update from Burlington Telecom and confirmed Weinberger’s slate of mayoral appointments for the 2022 fiscal year. The administration, like many local governments nationwide, has seen significant recent staff turnover.

Councilors also voted to raise the city’s solid waste generation tax from $4.84 per customer to $5.36.

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Shaun Robinson

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