Face masks required in schools through Sept. 30
Lamont: Trajectory of virus will determine rules after that
Face masks will be mandatory in Connecticut schools for at least the first month of the upcoming academic year, Gov. Ned Lamont announced on Tuesday. The status of the order remains unclear beyond the end of September.
“All students wear a mask, K through 12,” Lamont said during a morning news conference in New Haven.
“At this point, I don’t see that changing. Of course, my executive orders go through Sept. 30. But I think getting our schools off on the right footing makes the most sense. I see some of the problems they’re having in a number of the southern states where the kids are not wearing masks, where
they are forced to quarantine, where teachers are getting ill. And we’re not going to let that happen. Not in Connecticut.”
The governor’s declaration was not a new order; rather, it was a continuation, or a confirmation, of two related orders from him and the acting public health commissioner. It came on a day when infection rates and hospitalizations pushed up further after rising over the weekend.
The percent of positive tests jumped over 4 percent to 4.25 percent — the highest daily percentage in four months — bringing the 7-day average positive test level to 3.4 percent.
Connecticut hospitals saw a net increase of 36 inpatients with COVID-19, the largest increase since March, bringing the total to 321.
Lamont was more forceful about masks later Tuesday in New Britain, during an event promoting vaccinations for high school athletes. “Please be prepared, and by the way, the tighter the mask the more effective it is,” Lamont said.
Lamont has not asked lawmakers to extend his executive powers beyond Sept. 30 and has not indicated whether he will do so. It’s also unclear whether individual school systems will have the authority to determine mask rules after Sept. 30.
“I want to make sure everybody can be in that classroom safely,” Lamont said in front of a soccer goal and a football upright at Veterans Memorial Stadium in New Britain. “I hope it’s not something we have to do for more than a month or two, but time will tell. COVID has its own timetable.”
Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, in response to a reporter’s question about confusion from towns having different mask orders after Lamont gave them the authority to tailor their local regulations, said towns in the same areas, including Bethel and Ridgefield are banding together in clusters to create consistent rules.
Dr. Deidre Gifford, acting commissioner of the state Department of Public Health, stressed that vaccinations are important for athletes and other students. Gifford said young teens are not getting vaccinated at recommended rates. About 96 percent of hospitalizations have occurred in unvaccinated people, she said.
An analysis by Hearst Connecticut Media showed that 73 percent of Connecticut residents ages 18 and older had been fully vaccinated as of Aug. 12. By contrast, 49 percent of youths ages 12 to 17 had received both of the needed shots of the vaccine.
The older teens are more likely to have been vaccinated and the numbers are rising. On Tuesday, Gifford said 46 percent of 12- to 15-year olds are fully vaccinated, and 58 percent of them have received at least one dose. “So we have a ways to go with our 12- to 15-year-olds to get everybody vaccinated and back to school safely,” Gifford said.
Sixty-three percent of 16- and 17-year-olds are fully inoculated, and 72 percent have received at least one dose.
“Look, we missed you a lot this year,” Lamont told the athletes, referring to the lost seasons for football, soccer, volleyball and other sports at the height of the pandemic in 2020. “We missed you a lot last year and we’re getting it right this year. C’mon 12- to 15-year olds. C’mon 15- to 17-year-olds. Step up. We really need you to do it.”
In New Haven, where Lamont visited the 52-year-old Junta for Progressive Action agency in the low-income Fair Haven neighborhood to celebrate the state’s increased Earned Income Tax Credit, the governor noted the end of his emergency powers is coming on Sept. 30.
With Lamont and about 50 people in attendance, was Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, D-New Haven. He took a wait-andsee approach on the emergency powers, which date to March, 2020 during the first days of the pandemic, which is linked to at least 8,307 fatalities in the state.
“Should the governor request an extension, I would certainly support it,” Looney told reporters, stressing the next month is important as legislators consider a likely special session. “I think that decision would be based on the state of the pandemic at the time we come in during the second half of September.”
“I think it’s still too early,” Lamont added. “I hope we may not need it. I’m hoping that the 30th is good. I see what’s going on in Britain, I see what’s going on in Missouri. I see what’s going on in Arkansas. We’ve got to make sure that we have the flexibility to act if we need to, after Oct. 1.”
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