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Montpelier Ends Mask Mandate

Lost Nation Theater cast members practice with masks in 2021. Montpelier City Council recently lifted a city-wide indoor mask mandate. Photo by Tom McKone.
Although the Montpelier’s indoor masking requirement was due to expire on Friday March 11, councilors voted unanimously to end the requirement “immediately” at their regular meeting last Wednesday.

City Manager Bill Fraser noted that the Vermont State Department of Health provided cities and towns authorization until a time certain in April, “it’s not a tool we’re going to have a whole lot longer.” Because the requirement was enacted for 30 days by the city on February 9, it expires March 11, he said.

Assistant City Manager Cameron Niedermayer indicated that the state of Vermont is stepping back its masking requirement in state buildings as of March 14.

Mayor Anne Watson said Montpelier Alive Executive Director Dan Groberg reported that a majority of downtown businesses favor ending the mask mandate.

Newly elected councilor Cary Brown said, “We’re not falling under the CDC guidelines for requiring masking at this time.” 

Councilor Lauren Heirl agreed: “My inclination is to let it lapse,” she said.

Councilor Conor Casey reflected that “The State has taken a negligent, patchwork approach to COVID by letting individual municipalities decide when a statewide mandate would have been necessary. . . For us, retaining the trust of the people in case there is a future need for a mandate is essential. . . Do not renew it,” he said.

Casey added that “some businesses are being openly defiant, calling city hall and saying, ‘We’re not going to do it anymore!’”

The only public comment came from Steven Whitaker, who was recently defeated in his campaign for mayor against Anne Watson: “I want to point out about the comment about ‘trust.’ It’s too late for that. You’ve already lost it. I warned you when you were doing this that there’s no enforcement mechanism. What you did is you shamed a lot of folks, like at Shaw’s, yet you ignored people like at Three Penny with people five or six deep yelling in each other’s face one foot apart, all without masks. So you’ve made a real farcical embarrassment out of the whole thing, and now you’re trying to pretend that you’re going to save face here,” he said.

After the discussion among council members about letting the measure expire, Councilor Jack McCullough “moved to terminate the mask order, effective immediately.” The measure was unanimously approved.