Vermont's largest city will end its mask mandate next week
Vermont’s largest city will end its city-wide indoor mask mandate starting next week. Officials say the move shifts COVID safety toward individual responsibility and personal risk assessment.
At a press conference on Friday, Feb. 25, city officials reported COVID cases were down 83% in Burlington since Jan. 10.
“The mask mandate was sort of an embodiment of the importance of collective masking,” said Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger. “As we lift them, and as we move into this new period, I've heard a lot more discussion about one-way masking, and that there's really a clear recognition now that people who are vulnerable can protect themselves.”
The mayor was joined by Dr. Timothy Lahey, an infectious disease physician at the University of Vermont Medical Center and Meagan Tuttle, director of planning and Burlington’s COVID response leader.
Burlington’s case decline mirrors a similar statewide trend.
According to the Vermont Department of Health, the state is experiencing about a 90% decline in new cases since the omicron peak at the beginning of January. As of Friday, 35 people are hospitalized, with five in the ICU.
In Chittenden County, 93% of residents over the age of 5 have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. Sixty-six percent of residents 5 and older are either fully vaccinated or fully vaccinated with a booster, if they're eligible for one.
Despite the change to indoor masking guidance for public buildings, officials said that does not necessarily mean COVID is over.
“There probably will be peaks and valleys like we've experienced,” said UVMMC’s Dr. Lahey. “The hope is that because more and more of us are vaccinated, that those peaks and valleys are going to be easier than prior surges, and so we'll have more time to enjoy life that's closer to normal."
“The hope is that because more and more of us are vaccinated, that those peaks and valleys are going to be easier than prior surges, and so we'll have more time to enjoy life that's closer to normal.”Dr. Timothy Lahey, an infectious disease physician at the University of Vermont Medical Center
Burlington businesses can still require masks or proof of vaccination when the city-wide mandate expires.
But for city employees, rules that went into effect last October will remain. Currently, municipal employees are required to either be fully vaccinated or get tested weekly.
“That could change if the numbers continue to go down over the course of the spring,” Weinberger said.
The mayor also said that the city's masking policy change will not directly impact schools. He said schools are following guidance from the state, and Burlington School District Superintendent Tom Flanagan does not intend to immediately lift the masking requirement.
People who are most vulnerable are still encouraged to protect themselves by masking based on what their level of risk is.
The mandate is set to expire on March 3.