BRATTLEBORO — The town of Brattleboro is readjusting its mask policy after the reclassification of Windham County by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from an area of “moderate public transmission” of COVID-19 to an area of “substantial public transmission” of the virus.
All of the town’s government facilities remain open to the public at this time, but the town has reinstituted the requirement that anyone inside town buildings must be wearing a face covering. The policy applies equally to employees and to visitors, as well as vaccinated people and to unvaccinated people.
Brattleboro Town Manager Peter Elwell said in a statement Wednesday that the CDC guidance on this matter is clear: All “people [should] wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.” He told the Reformer the change will have implications for Select Board and other town meetings.
The town does not currently have the authority to return to fully remote meetings.
“Select Board and committee meetings will continue to have a physical location,” Elwell said Wednesday in an email response to the Reformer. “Select Board Chair[woman] Liz McLoughlin and I conferred about this earlier today. We are considering options for how to ensure that these meetings are both safe and productive. It is possible that we will continue mostly in person and masked, and it is possible we might move to mostly remote but with an in-person option for the public. We’ll announce a decision on that when one has been made.”
The town facilities remain open to the public, however, there are alternatives for people who prefer not to be indoors in a public building during this time of increased public transmission of the virus. The brown mailbox in the parking lot behind the Municipal Center is available for people to conveniently make payments or other deliveries by depositing their sealed envelopes into the secure dropbox. Town employees collect everything in that box several times each workday.
The town will issue additional COVID updates whenever such an update is warranted by an additional future change in circumstances.
“If the guidance changes and/or local data changes our status, then we will follow the CDC’s advice on additional actions the town should take,” Elwell told the Reformer.
The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that new cases of COVID-19 are expected to continue rising in Vermont through the end of August before they begin to drop off.
Mike Pieciak, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation who oversees pandemic statistics for the state, said Tuesday that as the delta variant of the virus has spread across the world, it has followed a similar pattern of increasing for seven to nine weeks, and then declining.
Among the locations where that pattern has been seen is India, where the delta variant first appeared, and the United Kingdom, according to Pieciak. That pattern is starting to appear in Missouri and Arkansas, some of the states hit hardest by the current surge.
The increase in cases in Vermont began in early July. Currently, Vermont is averaging about 80 new cases a day. Pieciak said he expected that to increase to about 150 a day before declining.
Meanwhile, as of Tuesday, Vermont continued to lead the nation with 84.6 percent of the eligible population — those 12 and over — having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 75.4 percent of eligible Vermonters fully vaccinated.
Vermont reported 85 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday for a statewide total since the pandemic began of more than 25,750 cases.
A total of 25 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, with seven in intensive care, according to the Vermont Department of Health.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont has risen over the past two weeks from 24.29 new cases per day on July 26 to 83.71 new cases per day on Aug. 9.