The Vermont Legislature passed a bill in a special session Monday that would allow municipalities to adopt temporary indoor mask mandates amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and after the governor has declined to reimpose a state of emergency.
Republican Gov. Phil Scott has said he will continue to encourage the use of masks indoors, but is opposed to statewide mandates and restrictions at this time. He said he offered the special session for the legislation to be passed as a compromise.
But some lawmakers say he is no longer doing enough.
“I will support this bill because it's part of a compromise that we have tried to reach with an executive branch that is failing to do their job," said Addison County Sen. Ruth Hardy, adding that she thinks a statewide approach is better.
"I am concerned about the way that this will be impacting our towns. I have been a local school board member. I know how raucous it can be at the town level," she said.
The legislative body of a municipality would decide whether to have a mask mandate. Schools would not be included.
Some lawmakers who voted against it said the bill burdened towns that might not have the resources to enforce it. An amendment that would have removed the possibility of criminal penalties failed in the House.
The Senate also passed a resolution urging the governor to declare a state of emergency, followed by a statewide mask mandate.
The resolution states while Vermont consistently has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, it has one of the highest per capita rates of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidelines this fall to wear masks in areas of substantial or high transmission and last week identified the state as an area of high transmission, the resolution stated.