Vermont Extending School Mask Recommendation Another Month

The recent surge in cases caused by the highly transmissible delta variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 prompted the change

Vermont Republican Gov. Phil Scott speaks to reporters after voting on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in his hometown of Berlin, Vt. Scott said he voted for Democrat Joe Biden for president because he believes the former vice president can do more to bring the country together. He said it was the first time in his life he's voted for a Democrat.
AP Photo/Wilson Ring

The Vermont Agency of Education is extending until Oct. 4 its recommendation that all students wear masks at all times in school to reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, Gov. Phil Scott said Wednesday.

The agency had recommended schools require masks for the first 10 days of school and then allow schools to loosen masking restrictions for fully vaccinated students once those schools reached the 80% vaccination or greater level of vaccination among students eligible to be vaccinated, those over age 12.

The recent surge in cases caused by the highly transmissible delta variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 prompted the agency to rethink its suggestion.

“We hope by then the delta wave that has impacted the entire country, though fortunately not anywhere near as severe in Vermont, will have begun to subside,” Scott said during his regular weekly virus briefing.

The Scott administration has been criticized by some for not imposing a mask requirement on school districts. Absent the state of emergency that was in place from the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 until June of this year, Scott said he lacked the legal authority to require masks.

But he said every school district in the state, but one, is following the recommendation.

The Education Agency is also working on a vaccine incentive program that would reserve $2 million for grant programs for schools with high vaccination rates.

The schools would have to apply for the grants with input from students, he said.

“We’re hoping to emphasize just how important it is to be vaccinated,” Scott said.

Scott also said Wednesday that beginning Sept 15 he is moving forward with a plan to require all state employees in the executive branch to attest that they are vaccinated or be subject to weekly testing and mandatory masking at work.

The requirement will cover the majority of state employees, everyone minus the legislative and judicial branch staffs, Scott spokesman Jason Maulucci said after the news conference.

Earlier this month the state required state employees who work with vulnerable populations — such as correctional officers who work in prisons or those who work in the state psychiatric hospital — to be vaccinated.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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