In-Person Meetings To Return, Some Mask Requirements Eased

In yet another hopeful sign that the Covid-19 pandemic may be in its final stages, the Township Council on July 13 voted to resume in-person meetings and ease mask restrictions at the Senior/Community Center.

The Council and all boards and commissions will resume in-person meetings as soon as they can advertise the end of virtual meetings, according to the motion adopted by the Council. Mayor Phil Kramer, the sponsor of the measure, said the Council could be back in its chambers in for its August meeting.

Other boards, such as the Zoning and Planning boards, will have to have more virtual meetings because there is not enough time to advertise the change in venue.

The Council also voted to allow participants in township recreation department’s indoor exercise programs to not wear masks if they can prove that they have been vaccinated.

Currently, masks are required in all township buildings.

That proposal, initially made by Kramer, generated some discussion among Council members and Township Manager Robert Vornlocker.

Kramer’s original motion would have allowed people who come to the community center, and who could prove they were vaccinated, not to wear masks. That brought up concerns of enforcement among some Council members and the manager.

Vornlocker’s concern was that he did not want recreation department employees to become engulfed in confrontations with people who were not vaccinated and who refused to wear masks.

“It’s difficult for me to ask staff members, who are civilian staff members, to enforce a policy that has the potential to be confrontational,” he said. “And I don’t want that.”

“If a recreation staff member is met with resistance when someone refuses to show a Covid vaccination card, but also refuses to wear a mask, that has the potential to become confrontational,” Vornlocker said.

Vornlocker also said it would be difficult to single out one municipal building where mask-wearing is optional.

“The reason I’m not doing this at other buildings is when people come to pay a water bill, they’re there for a short time,” Kramer said. “When they come to the senior center, they’re there for the day. I wear a mask for a full day, and I tolerate it.”

“Most of the people who are participating in these programs are not seniors,” Vornlocker said. “They are adults, but not seniors. Not necessarily people who are spending an inordinate amount of time in that building, they are there for a specific program and they leave.”

Kramer said his main concern was being in a crowded room with people who have not been vaccinated.

“I’m vaccinated, I don’t want to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder to someone who is not vaccinated and not wearing a mask,” Kramer said. “That’s why I want masks worn in the municipal building.”

Councilwoman Kimberly Francois said if there is a new policy, it should be across the board. She also questioned whether enforcement should just be an honor system among those who attend the programs.

“I envision it being an honor system,” Kramer said. “I’m open to it being not an honor system.”

Heeding Vornlocker’s warning about the difficulties in managing such a policy, Kramer said that he would be willing to withdraw the motion.

“But I do not see the default as allowing people to not wear masks at all in the municipal complex,” he said.

Vornlocker then came up with a compromise.

“This is what I would say about recreation programs: If participants in recreation programs that involve exercise were given the opportunity to forgo wearing masks if they proved they were vaccinated, that would alleviate some of the sticking points that a staff member might have,” he said. “You can forgo the mask if you can prove that you’ve been vaccinated, and that’s voluntary.”

Kramer and the rest of the Council went along with that.

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