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City of New Haven Returns to Masks as County COVID Cases Climb

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New Haven County is now rated at a high level of community transmission for COVID-19, according to the CDC.

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker re-instituted a mask mandate for all indoor spaces across the city. It takes effect Monday August 9.

“This is similar to mask mandates we’ve had before,” Elicker said. “It will be indoors, public spaces. So, retail establishments, restaurants when you’re not eating.”

It follows the governor’s executive order last night to let municipalities issue mask mandates instead of one statewide order.

“I think it’s unfortunate that we’re in that position, but I think from a public health standpoint it’s probably the wisest move at this point,” said Sam Breitbart of New Haven.

The decision comes as COVID cases continue to climb in New Haven County. City Health Director Maritza Bond calls the countywide rise disheartening.

“In the past week the city of new haven has had 250 new cases, and it’s not necessary when we know vaccines provide protection,” Bond said.

According to Bond, 65% of city residents have had a first dose of the COVID vaccine and 58% are fully vaccinated. They are seeing a gradual increase in people getting shots.

The mask mandate means the city’s COVID-19 taskforce will continue to make visits to businesses around the city to ensure the order is being followed. Bond describes them as friendly visits to offer information and masks to establishments.

"This is really an opportunity for businesses to have the weekend to plan before it goes into full effect on Monday," Bond said.

In North Haven, the town has 73 percent of its residents fully vaccinated.

“If these towns see numbers that are rising then maybe the towns should be making decisions based on the numbers,” said Sherry Migliorini of North Haven.

That’s part of the reason First Selectman Mike Freda says he won’t issue a mask mandate.

“We encourage people to get vaccinated. We encourage people to wear masks,” Freda said. “Many times through our encouragement, we can create some change, but to dictate and mandate, I stop short on that.”

He says businesses understand their customers and their clients, and that some have decided to put mandates in place.

In Hamden, Mayor Curt Leng said they are closely monitoring the town’s positivity rate and will decide on a mask mandate if those numbers continue to climb.

By moving away from another statewide order, there’s now room for varying decisions in municipalities across the state.

“I think that anytime we have perhaps 169 different policies, it may create confusion,” Freda said.

Freda mentioned that he doesn’t believe it should be up to local governments to implement mask orders, but if the governor followed through with a second statewide order, he said North Haven would comply.

Elicker agrees a broad decision could make things clearer, although he does agree with the governor’s decision.

“I think that we have a real leader in Hartford that’s giving us the tools that we need to keep our residents safe,” Elicker said.

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