BRATTLEBORO — The Select Board renewed the town’s indoor mask rule, with updated wording that specifies face coverings recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The recommendation for the update came from board member Tim Wessel, who cast the lone dissenting vote against reinstating the rule in November. The former rule required patrons and staff to wear cloth masks or face shields, while the updated rule notes the CDC recommendations, which now include N95s and KN95 surgical masks.
“When I took a look at our [former] rule, it’s problematic now more than it was before, in my mind, because we have effectively transitioned into ordering people to wear a mask that science now tells us is largely ineffective against the omicron variant,” Wessel said. “So if our intent is to protect with this rule and not just create some sort of magical thinking of safety, then I want to just throw that out there as a friendly idea.”
The board voted 4-1 to renew the mask rule at its meeting Tuesday, with Wessel opposing the move again, and the board unanimously supported an amendment for the new wording. The board was required by special legislation that allows local mask mandates, to review the rule in at least 45 days after initial adoption, then at least every 30 days after.
Wessel called face shields “so 2020. I don’t think anyone does those anymore,” he said.
Board Chairwoman Elizabeth McLoughlin recalled at the beginning of the pandemic, when the general public was told not to use N95 masks because of a short supply for health care workers who needed them most.
Board Vice Chairman Ian Goodnow said he doesn’t “see the fact that we have to continually modify this to reflect the reality on the ground as an inherent problem with what we’ve done.”
“This pandemic has constantly been shifting ground, and our federal government and the CDC is constantly changing guidelines,” he said, telling Wessel, “While I appreciate what you’re saying, I don’t agree with the sentiment that it is inherently negative or bad that our mandate is not always entirely up to date and that it requires some modification. That’s like what this pandemic has shown we have to do when it comes to advising the public as to health matters.”
McLoughlin compared the virus to “The Terminator,” the 1984 movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“It can’t be reasoned with, it can’t be talked to,” she said. “So in the meantime, we should continue with our mask mandate.”
Town Manager Yoshi Manale suggested including CDC-recommended face coverings in the rule.