Burlington leaders are considering another mask mandate as COVID-19 cases in Chittenden County have risen sharply.
Mayor Miro Weinberger said Friday that he will host a town hall meeting with local businesses next week to discuss whether his office should pursue a citywide mask mandate similar to the one that was in effect for most of the last year.
"To achieve that, we would need the partnership of local businesses and organizations," he said during a virtual COVID-19 briefing, his first in months.
Weinberger said he would likely announce a decision by early September. His administration recently recommended that residents resume masking up in indoor public spaces.
City councilors voted last June to lift the previous indoor mask mandate as the state vaccination campaign hit a key milestone and infection rates plummeted.
The Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus has brought a new wave of infections and hospitalizations across Vermont, including in Chittenden County, though the state's high vaccination rate has tempered its effects. The county has logged nearly 600 new cases over the last two weeks, according to the Vermont Department of Health.
Earlier this week, Brattleboro, in Windham County, became one of the first communities in Vermont to reimpose a municipal mask mandate, VTDigger.org reported.
Gov. Phil Scott has refrained from restoring a statewide mask mandate, but is requiring some state employees to get vaccinated. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends that people wear masks in counties with substantial or high rates of transmission. Chittenden County and many others in Vermont fall into those categories.
Weinberger also announced on Friday that Burlington's municipal workers would be required to get vaccinated by October 8, or else submit to weekly COVID-19 testing. More than 90 percent of employees have already submitted proof that they are vaccinated, he said — above the countywide rate of 86.6 percent of eligible residents.
The city will offer a $50 incentive to its remaining unvaccinated employees should they decide to get the shot, Weinberger added.
Starting Monday, all city employees will be required to wear masks whenever interacting with members of the public.
Private employers have taken similar steps. The University of Vermont and Champlain College, for instance, are requiring masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.
A date for Weinberger's town hall has not been set but will likely take place later in the week.