More than 200,000 free cloth masks will be distributed across Vermont as the state’s new mask mandate takes effect on Saturday, Gov. Phil Scott (R) said at a news conference Friday.

Vermont Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said the masks, donated by multiple entities for Operation Cloth Face Coverings, will cover a third of the state’s population. Smith said residents can get the masks at various distribution points throughout the state.

“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 last week when he announced the mandate requiring people to cover their faces while in public settings.

More than 30 states have some form of a statewide mask mandate. Scott acknowledged that wearing masks has become a polarized issue in the United States and said Friday it was the “prerogative” of individual businesses to not enforce the mask rule.

Vermont, the second-least populous state, has had relatively low rates of infection and 57 total deaths statewide with new daily cases in the single digits. Vermont officials noted Friday that new cases in the wider Northeast region ticked up 2.6 percent this past week compared to the week prior. Authorities are also bracing for college students to potentially return to area campuses from other parts of the country.

Source: The Washington Post

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