coronavirus in connecticut

State to Review New CDC Guidance on Wearing Masks Indoors

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The Connecticut Department of Public Health and the Office of the Governor will review the newest guidance on indoor masking from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gov. Ned Lamont's communications director Max Reiss said Tuesday.

The CDC announced Tuesday that it was recommending fully vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors again in places with high Covid transmission rates, a reversal of previous guidance. The agency is also recommending that school children wear masks this fall, though the guidance is not a mandate, and decisions will be left to the state and local level.

The news comes as the delta variant is becoming more prominent and is the cause of 80% of new COVID-19 cases in the nation.

Last week Lamont said the state has already been considering implementing new travel restrictions as the COVID-19 number trend up and the delta variant spreads, though no final decisions have been made.

Reiss noted that both Hartford and New London counties are close to the level described by the CDC for universal masking, though nowhere in Connecticut has yet reached the threshold.

"Even in states that have some of the lowest infection rates in the country, vaccinated people who are immunocompromised, otherwise considered high-risk, live with individuals who are high-risk or with unvaccinated children, may want to consider wearing masks in indoor public settings," Reiss wrote in a statement.

Dr. Ulysses Wu, Hartford HealthCare Systems director of infectious diseases, said he thinks we should have been wearing masks to combat illness a long time ago, before COVID-19 was even a consideration. Now he thinks it's the right time to reconsider the state's current guidance.

"It’s probably the appropriate time, unfortunately we are seeing rising numbers. We are seeing rising hospitalizations for Connecticut already and we weren’t expecting to see this until the fall," Wu said.

Despite Connecticut seeing rising daily COVID-19 positivity rates, Gov. Lamont said he has no plans now to issue any new mask mandates.

The issue of children being required to wear face masks has been a contentious one among some Connecticut parents who’ve raised constitutional and health concerns about the mandate. 

A judge in May, however, upheld Lamont’s emergency order requiring masks for the most recent school year. The ruling did not address any guidance on masks that may be issued for the upcoming school year.

Meanwhile, a group called Unmask Our Kids CT has been holding rallies, demanding the requirement finally be lifted.

The state previously released interim guidance to school districts for PreK-12, which aims for 100% in-person learning and lays out recommendations on mask-wearing, vaccination, cohorting, and other preventative measures.

The Connecticut Education Association, which is the largest teachers' union in the state, said in a statement they expected the state to react to the latest CDC guidance.

"Safety is and must remain a top priority as we return to all in-person classes in the fall, and we expect the state to ensure that all school districts follow the CDC's new recommendations to keep everyone in our school communities safe. Vaccinations are the best protection against the virus, but we have large populations of unvaccinated students, because vaccines are not available to them at this point, so the next best way to protect them, their educators, and their families is to wear masks. In the absence of a vaccine for students, and with the increase of cases and the spread of the delta variant, the CDC’s recommendation that everyone in K-12 schools remain fully masked indoors is the best precaution we have for our safety--especially for our most vulnerable students--and the most responsible way to ensure students stay in school. The consequences of not wearing masks means a return to a revolving door of hybrid and remote learning, causing more disruptions for our students and their education.”

Connecticut's COVID-19 numbers have been trending upward. On Tuesday, the positivity rate was at 2.67%, with 488 new cases out of 18,273 new tests reported. There are currently 105 people hospitalized with the virus, which is a net decrease of three from the day before.

Despite the higher COVID-19 numbers, Connecticut continues to report some of the highest vaccination rates in the country.

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