Mask Mandate Debate

DANVILLE - "If you five want that choice to divide Danville, which you're one hundred fifty percent going to do... you are going to divide this small, amazing town like it's never been before," Danville resident Megan Bunnell said to Danville's selectboard. Thursday night, the board passed a decision to put a town-wide mask mandate in affect.

It only took about twenty minutes for the selectboard to run through the agenda before they started the hard hitting conversation on whether to pass a mask mandate in the town of Danville. "This is strictly related to the possibility of some type of municipal mask mandate, it does not relate to vaccines. This topic is relating to masking only," selectboard Chair Ken Linsley said as the discussion began. A period of three minutes was given to the public for those who wanted to speak on the matter, but the period of time seemed to linger as more and more residents began to speak.

Alison Despathy, a long time resident of Danville was the first to speak. She has a masters in science and Despathy expressed to the board that she is not in support of the suggested mandate. "Impulsive action is not a good idea," she said in her opening statement. Despathy expressed how difficult it was for her to decide how to approach the conversation as she has attended many school board meetings before this, about mask mandates in school settings. As well as attending the Special Session where Governor Phil Scott had announced he was passing the bill that allows municipalities to adopt temporary indoor mask mandates.

"Why do you think it would be up to you to make decisions about what we do to protect ourselves, our body autonomy, and our ability to make health choices? Why would you even think that is in your power?" Despathy said, she then went on to tell the board that in her research there has been no factual evidence that she found that supports the wearing of masks are effective. "If any of you had a chance to look at the research, I would ask you too, because there is no evidence. We can not do monkey see monkey do just because other towns are doing this," she explained.

She suggested that there could be an alternative by sending out a letter of recommendation to wear masks in the town. Saying that other towns like Hartford and Lyndonville would not ask their residents to wear face coverings. Despathy also expressed her concern for people who own businesses in the town. That the wearing of masks has put a lot of pressure on business owners. "I spoke to five business owners today in this town, none of them support this, none of them will enforce this."

Two business owners physically attending the meeting agreed with Despathy's claims. Dawn Brittian who is a resident of Danville owns a dog grooming business. She tells the board how difficult the pandemic has been on business owners. "As a business owner, I have always left it up to the person coming through my door if they want to wear a mask. If they want me to wear a mask I have no problem putting on a mask," Brittian explained. A former business owner Melissa Ramsey says she hopes the board tells local businesses of their plans before making a final decision. She explained having owned her own business, she would have liked to know herself of this news. Another resident Danielle Morris says she has been seeing many of her coworkers move on and find new jobs because of the past statewide mask mandate. "I'd hate to see a lot of people lose business in the town based upon a mandate."

In every testimony, each person brought up a concern about children wearing a mask. A father, and resident, Trevor Bunnell expressed by enforcing this mandate he feels adults are setting a bad example for their kids. He believes that the towns people should decide whether or not a mask mandate is put in place. "I want to see my kid see his friends smile, my kid has been wearing a mask for two years and he can't read eyes." Bunnell says despite how tolerant he's been to mask mandates, he is no longer tolerating being told what to do. "I just want to see some normalcy." "I don't need you guys to tell me what's good for me," Bunnell said.

Another concerned parent, and a business manager, Carolyn Morris steps up to speak her truth with the same concern. She believes putting a mandate out is going to create more damage than helping the current situation. "All these mandates, all of this government control is hurting a hell of a lot more than it's helping," she stated. "When my ten year old son says it's not fair that you got to have a childhood where you did not have to worry about people trying to kill you, and cover your face. That destroys me as a mother." She is concerned that this environment is not the best for her children. "We are all very exhausted, and when I heard that Danville was considering putting out a mask mandate, I am being pushed to the brink myself."

On the other side of things, the board expressed that they themselves did not want to have to come to a decision on the mandate. Petter Griffin, a member on the board expressed how difficult it's been for all five members. He says he has kids of his own that go to school, and he understands from a parental standpoint how hard the pandemic has been. "I do not wish that this was the position that we are in." Griffin explains that he believes the legislature made a horrible decision leaving this task up to the towns. "I think this is a bad policy, and I think this is bad personally. I don't want to be having this discussion."

Linsley also feels strongly that the governor and the legislature made a mistake. "They did a disservice by essentially creating two hundred fifty sets of conditions so that each town could set their own conditions." Linsley says in his statement, but ultimately the board felt it was necessary to address the matter and come up with a solution that works for everyone. In the end the board decided to put out a mask mandate in the town, but businesses can decide for themselves whether to enforce it. The mandate will expire after forty five days, and the board will vote on it again after that time period. A business letter was posted on the main page for local establishments to read if they have any questions.