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Mask mandate to strengthen retail, Scott says

In a press conference Friday, Gov. Phil Scott predicted a new statewide facial covering mandate will strengthen the retail business economy in Vermont. 

Scott signed an order last week requiring citizens to wear masks in public spaces indoors, as well as outdoors when social distancing of 6 feet can’t be maintained. The mandate goes into effect Aug. 1.

The Vermont Daily Chronicle asked Scott during Friday’s press conference if the mandate will hurt locally owned businesses. 

“… Are you concerned that your mask mandate will drive consumers to buy even more online and less through in-person visits to small, Vermont-owned retail businesses, and has your administration discussed if this increased online buying could turn into a permanent consumer choice for more Vermonters?”, he was asked.

The opposite will be true, Scott replied. Vermonters concerned about health risks will have more confidence shopping in person, he said. 

“With the mask mandate, people will be more comforted (about going into stores),” he said. “I believe that this action that we are taking is proactive and will have the opposite effect.” 

With the mandate, businesses will be allowed to deny entry or service to those who decline to wear masks. 

“Unfortunately, this issue has become polarized and, I’m still worried that a mandate will create unnecessary conflict and resistance,” Scott said. “Attacking, shaming and judging isn’t going to help; but understanding, educating, leading by example, meeting people where they are and maybe a little kindness will.”

There are exceptions to the mask mandate: Masks aren’t required while eating, drinking or exercising, and for children under 2 and people with health considerations. 

“Based on national and regional data on how the virus is spreading — and rather than waiting like other states have — I feel we need to act now to protect our gains, which have allowed us to reopen much of our economy,” Scott said. “That’s why I … strengthened our current mask mandates, so that we do not take steps backwards and we can stay open into the fall as people move more of their interactions indoors.”

When do you need to wear a mask?

— Any time it’s not possible to keep a 6-foot distance from others who are not part of your household. This includes both indoor and outdoor public spaces and group living settings (for example, long-term care facilities, nursing homes, apartment and condo complexes).

How do I choose a mask?

— Pick a mask that’s comfortable, but fits snugly against the side of your face. It should be secured with ties or ear loops and allow for breathing without restriction. Cloth masks should include multiple layers of fabric and be able to be washed and machine dried without damage or change to shape.

What’s the proper way to wear a mask?

— Wash your hands before putting it on.

— Be sure your mouth and nose are covered.

— Hook loops around your ears or tie it snugly.

— Do not touch it or pull it down while in public.

— Keep it on until you get home.

— Remove it without touching your eyes, nose or mouth, then wash your hands immediately.

— Wash it and make sure it’s completely dry before using again. Have a few on hand so you can rotate for washing.

Guy Page of the Vermont Daily Chronicle — online at www.vermontdailychronicle.com — contributed to this report.

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