A man wearing a face mask walks past the gates of the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, Vt., Thursday, March 12, 2020. Credit: Charles Krupa / AP

BURLINGTON, Vt. — The Burlington City Council has unanimously approved a mask mandate to help fight the spread of the coronavirus in Vermont’s largest city.

The requirement that begins Friday includes masks in retail shops and theaters, regardless of vaccination status. Proof of vaccination can exempt people from the rule in restaurants, bars and gyms.

It does not apply to places of worship or schools, which follow separate guidance.

The council approved the mandate Wednesday during a special meeting called by Mayor Miro Weinberger in hopes it will increase vaccination rates in Chittenden County.

Last month, Gov. Phil Scott called a one-day special session of the state Legislature at which lawmakers passed a bill that gives communities authority to pass local mask mandates.

Scott called the special session after many in Vermont urged him to do more to combat the surge in cases the state has been dealing with since summer. He has said he doesn’t think a mandate would work and he called the session a compromise.

Under the terms of the new law, Vermont’s local legislative bodies can decide whether to have a mask mandate. Schools would not be included. Municipalities that adopt mask mandates must vote every 30 days whether to keep the mandates in effect.

The towns of Brattleboro, Rutland and Warren have voted to require masks for indoor public spaces. The town of Hartford has rejected a community-wide mandate.

Burlington councilors did acknowledge that Vermont health officials have said most COVID-19 cases are being spread through small private gatherings, but they hope the mandate will slow the spread of the virus.