Mandatory mask order approved by Manchester Select Board

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MANCHESTER — Everyone in Manchester will be required to wear a mask in businesses after the Select Board passed an emergency order at its Tuesday meeting.

Modeled after an order passed in Bennington at the end of May, the Manchester board unanimously passed the mask requirement, which goes into effect Monday, with compliance requested immediately, but no later than Monday.

The board asked that the order contain language detailing that people with the virus can be asymptomatic and could be putting others at risk without knowing it.

"COVID-19 remains a health hazard to residents of Manchester and a significant threat to vulnerable populations and the people of Manchester believe in protecting our loved ones and our neighbors," the order says, in part. "Wearing a face covering is an important act we can do in an effort to protect others from an infection that we may not even know we have."

The order covers "all establishments located in the Town of Manchester and Village of Manchester that invite the public into their premises for the purpose of transacting business."

It requires both staff and customers to "wear cloth face coverings or face shields over their nose and mouth while inside the building of the establishment."

The order approved by the board does not contain

penalty or enforcement measures.

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There are exceptions for people when eating or exercising, or when employees are in private rooms, "such as an office, inside a building that is not otherwise occupied by another employee or customer ... while alone in that private room."

Also, children under age 5 or anyone who has trouble breathing are exempt.

Vice chair Wayne Bell said Manchester, as a tourist destination is at risk as the state opens up.

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"We're in an interesting position," Bell said. "As our tourist economy opens up, we're going to be in more jeopardy.

For us we have so many people who are traveling in and out of Manchester from the New York metropolitan area and other hot spots. This is pretty important for us more than it would be for other towns."Nobody on the board spoke against the plan and Town Manager John O'Keefe said that Manchester's deputy health officer Dr. Thomas Sterling recommended the town pass the emergency order.

O'Keefe said he had heard from business owners who had instituted mask requirements of their own, that they wanted to protect their employees and customers but didn't like being "the bad guy" when other businesses didn't have the requirement. A townwide order would make cover all businesses.Select Board chair Ivan Beattie said he didn't understand why people wouldn't comply with the order, despite it not having any teeth.

"It seems we should all be leading by example," Beattie said. "It just seems like a good idea. I can't imagine why most people wouldn't comply with this."

Bell said it was a matter of respect.

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"For those being respectful, I don't think it will affect them," Bell said.

O'Keefe wanted to give people some warning, so the measure will take affect Monday.

The order is in effect until the Select Board amends, rescinds or suspends it or until the governor declares an end to the COVID-19 State of Emergency in Vermont.

The board agreed that the town would create a standard notice that would be sent to businesses in town to be placed in their window.

After the question was asked how people would be notified, O"Keefe said it would be sent to local newspapers, emailed to businesses, and advertised online.

Select Board member Greg Cutler didn't think it would take long for the word to get around town.

Contact Darren Marcy at dmarcy@manchesterjournal.com or by cell at 802-681-6534.


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