There was no shortage of protestors outside the Capitol Wednesday, as Governor Ned Lamont delivered his State of the State address to lawmakers inside.
Their message has become familiar over the last two years. Written on the signs many held up were the words, “unmask our children.”
“This has gone on far too long. I don’t believe there’s an emergency anymore,” said Bobi Stashenko of Norwalk.
Stashenko, who brought her two school-aged sons to the protest, said she supported the mask mandate in schools at the beginning of the pandemic.
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“But now after two weeks turned into two years, enough is enough,” she explained.
The Saldemarco family had never participated in a protest until Wednesday, when Michael and Lauren brought two of their three children to the Capitol grounds ahead of the Gov. Lamont’s address to lawmakers.
“I think it’s time that we get back to some normalcy. We’ve been at this for two years now,” said Michael Saldamarco of Wallingford.
"We don’t want an end to masking, we’re looking for an end to the mandates," he continued.
“I hope that he lets the parents choose what is best for their children. Parents know what is best for their children and the government does not,” added his wife, Lauren.
On Monday, the governor announced his intention to hand the decision back to school districts at the end of the month, a point he reiterated Wednesday.
“From a public health perspective, you have earned this freedom and you can do that safely,” Lamont told lawmakers. “We know how to live safely in a post pandemic, but never completely Covid-free, world.”
“I would love to see it go back to the local districts because then we can see what is like in our town versus other towns. So, I do push for local control,” said Stashenko.
The move’s upset some on the other side of this debate.
“He’s not taking responsibility,” said Joel Leyden of VaccineAngel.com.
Leyden calls VaccineAngel.com the largest Covid-19 vaccine and mask advocacy groups in Connecticut.
“This is not the time to take your mask off,” he said. “We’ve already had 900,000 people die from Covid. I mean what more proof does one need?” he asked.
Others argue the decision shouldn’t be in the hands of the school districts but instead, left up to moms and dads.
“You’re still giving control to somebody else over your choice. There’s nobody to make decisions for their own kids than the parents themselves,” pointed out Saldamarco.
“It’s got to be a choice for the parents. We are their parents, not the government,” said Amanda Dombrowski of Trumbull.
Dombrowski, who brought her four-year-old, said she was upset that the mask mandate wouldn’t be lifted for preschool-aged children, who are still ineligible for a Covid-19 vaccine.
“My four-year-old still has a mask mandate held over her head for preschoolers and I think that’s absolutely ridiculous,” she added.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski was also at the Capitol to listen to Lamont’s speech and pressed the flesh with a number of the protestors while he was there.
NBC Connecticut asked him if he supported the mask mandate in schools at any point during the pandemic.
“I think we’re in a different situation right now. I think it should be up to the parents to decide. If a parent wants their child to wear a mask, they can do that. If a parent feels they shouldn’t, the mortality rate in children is point 0.2 percent. Any child that’s impacted is obviously a horrific situation,” said Stefanowski.
Shannon McLean held an American flag outside the Capitol, where she brought her two children.
“I think everyone can agree that we all have personal choices and individual family choices that we can make,” said McLean.
“For those who say it’s a personal choice, it’s not a personal choice when you’re affecting the lives of other people. It’s not a personal choice when you could be spreading Covid to the immunocompromised and to children. It’s no longer a personal choice,” he said.