St. J Taking Cautious Approach To Possible Local Mask Mandate

The St. Johnsbury Rotary Club is currently offering free masks to businesses and organizations in the area. Available are children and adult disposable masks available. This is made possible by the Ted Rossi Foundation and the New England Rotary Million Mask Challenge through Rotary District 7850. To request masks, email stjrotaryclub@gmail.com. Shown above is the St. Johnsbury club's president, Brynn Evans delivering 3,000 children’s masks to Jon Winot, facilities staff, at the St. Johnsbury School.

Don’t expect the St. Johnsbury Select Board to take immediate action if the state gives Vermont towns the right to impose COVID-19 mask mandates.

“Before this town acts on it - if we choose to - I would like to solicit public comment,” said selectman Dennis Smith at the board’s regular Monday night meeting. “I’d like to know how the people in this town feel. Would they like to see a town-wide mask mandate? Or not? So please contact us.”

Earlier in the day, lawmakers returned to the Statehouse in Montpelier for a special session on whether to give local communities the authority to pass their own mask mandates. Both the House and the Senate approved the bill which is now sitting on the desk of Gov. Phil Scott awaiting his signature.

“I agree with Dennis that if it gets signed and if it comes down, then we should hear from the public because there are certainly strong feelings on both sides,” said selectman Kevin Oddy.

If Gov. Scott signs the bill into law, towns will be allowed to pass their own 30-45 day mask mandates until the end of April. The bill is being driven by increased Delta-variant COVID-19 cases and the impact those cases are having on Vermont hospitals.

But selectman Frank Empsall said Monday that enacting a mandate is one thing, but enforcing it is another.

“I don’t see where we have the manpower for our police department to enforce such a mandate,” said Empsall.

Selectman Daniel Kimbell, who wasn’t wearing a mask at the meeting, said it was an individual choice.

“I’ve had all my vaccinations, I’ve had my booster, I believe in the science,” said Kimball. “And everybody here has had the opportunity to have that done…I will not have those that don’t vaccinate now dictate my life. That’s my personal opinion.”

The board members addressed the issue during the public comment section of the meeting.

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