The masks are off — at least for now, but not necessarily for everyone or everywhere. And it remains an open question for how long. The suspension of masking requirements at Montpelier High School (MHS) after the February vacation led to students protesting with concerns about having no mask mandate. A week later 31 MHS students tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a basketball game where most of the crowd wasn’t fully masked. Public officials, from Dr. Michael Levine, Vermont’s chief medical officer, to members of Montpelier’s city council, have rescinded COVID-19-related mask mandates with the caution that re-instatement of public health measures, such as masking, could be required if a new variant of the virus brings another surge of illness and death. A stroll around State and Main streets during the unseasonably balmy weather last week found about 20% of pedestrians wearing masks. Others were observed slipping on a mask before entering a store, even if not required. Masks are no longer required in the post office or in the federal offices and courts on the upper stories.Dr. Levine in particular has stressed that civility should be the standard on all sides of the masking decision, noting that individuals with compromised immune systems or other vulnerabilities will likely continue to mask in public places. As Dan Groberg, executive director of Montpelier Alive!, explained, a substantial majority of Montpelier’s downtown businesses strongly supported ending the city’s indoor masking mandate that was terminated on March 9 by the city council. “While businesses actively sought the city’s support for the original mandate, it became clear by early March that most were ready to be done with it,” he said. From the outset of the pandemic, many business owners were not comfortable with being implicitly tasked with enforcing the masking requirements. By March 2022, “some were openly defiant” about continuing to mask when businesses were free from such mandates in other communities; Barre and Burlington were most often referenced, according to Groberg.