Wilton health officer receives pushback on Recycling Center mask mandate

  • Masks are now officially required at the Wilton Recycling Center. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Masks are now officially required at the Wilton Recycling Center. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/9/2021 1:43:31 PM
Modified: 1/9/2021 1:43:14 PM

Wilton Town Administrator and Health Officer Paul Branscombe received significant backlash from residents after posting a new mandate for masks at the Wilton Recycling Center, including a warning that the town would note the license plates of those who refused to comply.

In full, the post read: “With the recent surge in cases, all patrons of the Wilton Recycling Center are required to wear a mask to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus and keep staff and patrons safe. If you do not have a mask, one will be provided. If you refuse to wear it, your license plate number will be noted and forwarded to the proper authorities.”

The Recycling Center is owned by Wilton but also serves Lyndeborough, Greenville, Temple and Mason.

The Facebook post was shared to a local community page for Wilton and Lyndeborough residents, most with negative reactions, particularly to what some residents called the “threat” of notifying proper authorities.

Branscombe said Friday that the clarification of the rules was a result of a complaint received by the town that two of the Wilton Recycling Center staff were not wearing masks while closely interacting with a customer, despite the current mask mandate issued by Gov. Chris Sununu, which is still in effect through Jan. 15.

He said Wilton had seen a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in the week since the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays, and with a new, more contagious strain recently discovered, it was necessary to increase precautions.

According to Branscombe, five days before Christmas, Wilton had a total of 16 active cases, and a total of 56 cases reported. As of Jan. 7, Wilton had 26 active cases and 96 total reported cases.

“That is a 62 percent increase in active cases. This illustrates what can happen over a holiday period,” Branscombe wrote in a public update.

Branscombe said he was alerted to two additional cases in Wilton on Friday.

“This is getting out of hand,” he said. “I’m concerned that people aren’t taking it seriously.”

Branscombe said his post was not meant to be threatening, and that it was meant to be a measure to ensure that recycling center staff were not getting into confrontations with non-compliant users, and allowing the town to follow up with them at a later date.

Branscombe said he was aware of the Facebook comments and said the issue had been blown out of proportion. One commenter asked if the license plate information would be forwarded to the Gestapo, which he said was both “ridiculous” and “offensive.”

“I’m trying to keep people safe,” Branscombe said. He said the mandate is based on the recommendations set out by the state Department of Health.

Branscombe said he planned to address the mandate in his next public health update on Monday.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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