Masks are definitely required in South Burlington city buildings, but not necessarily public spaces.
South Burlington’s City Council decided Monday between two resolutions that require face coverings for the public when entering city buildings in the midst of COVID-19, the official name of the disease related to the coronavirus that first started to affect people at the end of 2019.
The Council passed the first resolution 5-0 which encouraged, rather than required, masks in public spaces. Burlington’s City Council passed its own resolution Monday detailing where face masks are required.
City councilors as well as city administrators called into the meeting.
What is a public space?
The resolution approved by the South Burlington City council states, in part:
“it is strongly encouraged that all City business and non-profits require all members of the public entering a Place of Public Access… to wear a PPE face covering or respirator that covers at least their mouth and nose.”
Places of public access in Vermont include:
- Retail stores.
- Grocery stores.
- Sports/fitness facilities.
- Hair salons.
A tougher alternative
Language in the alternative resolution took a harder approach, mandating that businesses and nonprofits require face coverings in places of public access.
The second resolution gleaned authority from Gov. Phil Scott’s executive order issued Friday, City Manager Kevin Dorn said on the call Monday.
Dorn said he modified the resolution to “put the onus on the owners of public spaces to require masks in those spaces.”
The governor’s order indicated municipalities’ legislative bodies can put more stringent requirements in place for mask usage. The City Council discussed the legality of the city mandating masks.
“It may give us a little comfort when it comes to the liability side of things,” City Attorney Andrew Bolduc said at the meeting. “I think as far as enforcement goes, I still think it’s a real challenge and a real question, how we would go about enforcing a resolution like this.”
Bolduc considered this resolution more of a political statement, though he acknowledged the governor’s order might give it more weight. The Council’s conversation turned to a discussion on logistics of enforcement.
“I’m not worried about infringing on people’s constitutional rights,” Councilor Tom Chittenden said. “I just want to do this right… It lacks clarity as to what the consequences are. So are they going to get a fine? Are they going to be arrested?”
He also expressed concern about the burden on police officers if people start calling the police on neighbors. Chittenden said he was a “yes” on the first resolution Monday, but would be happy to further explore the second in the future.
Contact Maleeha Syed at email@example.com or 802-495-6595. Follow her on Twitter @MaleehaSyed89.
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