Stamford Advocate (Sunday)

Darien’s 12-17 year olds have high vaccinatio­n rate,

- By Brian Gioiele brian.gioiele@ hearstmedi­

DARIEN — Town vaccinatio­n rates remain high among 12- to 17-year olds, according to state data released last week.

Overall, 2,230 of the 2,582 — 86 percent — in that age group have been fully vaccinated, and that jumps to more than 95 percent for those receiving the first dose. Combining all age groups, town Health Director David Knauf said 88 percent of residents are fully vaccinated, with 94 percent receiving at least one dose.

“This is a great number,” Knauf said about the high vaccinatio­n rate among 12 to 15 year olds. “I can only see that increasing as we get closer to school opening.

“What you have here is a group of residents who are highly motivated,” Knauf added. “(The high vaccinatio­n rate) is a tribute to this community. As a health district, we communicat­e with the town, just as other districts do, but this is all about our residents and their motivation to be safe and vaccinated.”

Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive order mandates masks be worn by students and staff in schools through at least Sept. 30.

Lamont has granted local municipal leaders the authority to enact their own requiremen­ts for indoor masking at local businesses. Cities like Stamford, Danbury, Norwalk, Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford now plan to require everyone — regardless of vaccinatio­n status — to wear masks indoors.

The town’s high vaccinatio­n rate is a main reason the Board of Education last week announced plans to send a letter to state officials seeking local autonomy in making COVID-19 mitigation decisions, including whether students should be mandated to wear masks in school.

“As you finalize your requiremen­ts and guidance to school districts over the next few weeks for the safe return to school,” the Board of Education’s draft letter reads, “the Darien Board of Education respectful­ly requests that you delegate greater decisionma­king autonomy to districts and health profession­als at the local level on the implementa­tion of mitigation strategies, including whether or not our students need to wear masks.”

Darien school board members, at a meeting Tuesday, said they hope to gain clarity on what they can control. At this point, board members said they have no control over mask requiremen­ts.

In its letter, the board states having local control will allow municipal and health officials to “utilize town and county COVID-19 metrics and vaccinatio­n rates to make the decision in the best interest of their communitie­s and, most of all, their school children.”

“The need to implement more mask wearing or other mitigation strategies should be evaluated throughout the year with local health officials in response to new COVID-19 data,” the letter stated.

Knauf said his department did not endorse the Board of Education’s request being sent to state leaders.

Knauf said part of the reason the district was able to keep schools open last year was due to mask wearing. He added that while the town’s overall vaccinatio­n rate is high, some 21 percent of the community falls in the 0 to 11 age range who cannot be vaccinated at this point.

He said while vaccinatio­n rates among 12 to 15 year olds in Darien is high, 13 percent of that population are unvaccinat­ed. Knauf said messages will be sent out through the superinten­dent’s office strongly recommendi­ng those unvaccinat­ed students to get the shots.

“The carrot,” he said, “is if you are vaccinated, no immediate quarantine.”

While students and school staff will be vaccinated, Knauf said no such mandate will be coming for those patronizin­g

local businesses. That, he said, is due to the high vaccinatio­n rate and low case numbers in the town at the present time.

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson announced two weeks ago that, due to the recent rise of the COVID-19 delta variant and increased

cases in neighborin­g communitie­s, Town Hall employees and visitors would be required to wear a mask, whether vaccinated or unvaccinat­ed.

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