Those frequenting indoor public spaces in Rutland Town will have to wear a mask when they enter, per an ordinance passed Wednesday morning by the town Board of Health.

“The purpose of this rule is to require all individuals to wear face coverings while indoors at locations that are open to the public in order to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and protect the public health and safety of the town of Rutland,” reads the ordinance.

In Rutland Town, the Select Board serves as the Board of Health.

The vote went 4-1 with Selectman Don Chioffi being the “no” vote.

The board opted to include fines as part of the ordinance. A first offense is a $50 fine with a $25 waiver, second offense is a $75 fine with a $35 waiver, and a third offense is $100 with a $50 waiver.

The ordinance exempts children younger than 2 years of age, anyone with a disability who can’t wear a mask or wear one safely because of the disability, anyone for whom wearing a mask would, “create a risk to workplace health, safety, or job duty as determined by the workplace risk assessment,” and anyone eating or drinking inside an establishment serving food or beverages.

On Monday, the Legislature convened for a special session to pass a law allowing towns to impose mask ordinances. Lawmakers and others had been pressuring Gov. Phil Scott on the matter for some time.

Town Health Officer and Selectman John Paul Faignant said under state law the board will have to revisit the ordinance every 45 days. However he would expect the board to do so every two weeks at its regular meetings, and after 30 days at most. The state law expires in April.

“I got into it a little bit last night but as we all know Rutland County is leading the count, our transmission rate is really high, but given the upcoming shopping holiday and following the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and Vermont Department of Health recommendations I would recommend that we take advantage of the state authorizing us to enact a mask mandate indoors for public buildings only for the town,” said Faignant.

Selectman Joe Denardo said because the shopping holiday is so near he wondered how this would be communicated to the community.

Board member Sharon Russell advised that Faignant contact some of the larger stores. She offered to help.

“The people looking for this are the bigger box stores, like Hannaford, they want help with this issue,” said Faignant. “They have their own rules in place, but they’re really happy to have the town pass the ordinance.”

Denardo said while the stores may already have their own mask requirements, they should feel free to cite the town’s ordinance if they receive backlash from customers.

There was no debate between board members over whether or not to pass the ordinance, either at the Tuesday or Wednesday meetings. However Chioffi said in an interview Wednesday that he feels this is an example of government overreach. He doesn’t believe masking is effective, criticized the ordinance for not specifying what kind of mask is required and likened the debate over wearing masks to the debate over abortion rights.

According to VTDigger, Brattleboro was the first town in Vermont to adopt a masking ordinance under the new law.

Few townships in Rutland County appeared eager to follow suit. Rutland City leaders told the Herald on Tuesday they were either against it or would consider it. Some towns north of Rutland on Route 7 have mask requirements for town buildings but the members of their boards don’t wish to impose that on the entire town.

keith.whitcomb @rutlandherald.com

(1) comment

RevJLN88*

I don't understand Councilman Chioffi's analogy of the debate over masks and abortion. Does this refer to saving lives? Kudos to the Rutland Town Council for protecting the residents of - and visitors to - Rutland Town.

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