State reviews CDC mask guidance, could apply to Hartford, New London counties

State officials on Tuesday were reviewing new recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors, noting two counties — Hartford and New London — are close to the CDC’s threshold.

Max Reiss, communications director for Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, said the governor’s office and the Department of Public Health will provide updates in the coming days on mask-wearing. In the meantime, people most at risk of coronavirus infection should consider wearing masks.

“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,” he said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, Lamont said he will “probably” follow the recommendations from the CDC when it comes to indoor mask-wearing. But he acknowledged that local infection rates could also help decide whether Connecticut requires everyone to once again wear a mask indoors.

“I’ve had towns with 99% of the people vaccinated with virtually zero community spread, and I have other communities that are very different,” said Lamont, shortly before the CDC recommended a return to indoor mask-wearing in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging.

“Look, every town, every business, every school has discretion to have stricter standards if they see fit. It is not true in Florida, but it is true here in Connecticut,” he said. “You’ve got a lot of concert venues, you’ve got some restaurants, they want to see your ID, make sure people have been vaccinated. I think they know their community the best. Absolutely, they have that discretion for even stricter rules if they think it is appropriate.”

Lamont said he needs to discuss with state legislators what should be done about indoor mask-wearing rules for schools and whether guidance or a strict mandate is needed, considering his emergency powers are set to expire on Sept. 30. But he also noted that a lot will depend on the spread of the more contagious Delta variant in Connecticut.

“Give me another couple of weeks and see whether we are Florida or we’re Connecticut,” he said, referring to the rising number of cases in Florida. “If we’re Connecticut, I think I’d give a little more discretion because we have earned it. We’re vaccinated. We don’t have community spread, and many towns have herd immunity. But two weeks, you know, stuff maybe happening. We’ve got to see.”

Kate Dias, the president of the state’s largest teachers union, Connecticut Education Association said Tuesday that its members “expect the state to ensure that all school districts follow the CDC’s new recommendations to keep everyone in our school communities safe” this fall given the fact vaccines aren’t available yet for many children and the Delta variant is spreading.

“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,” Dias said in a statement.

The Departments of Public Health and Education this week provided school districts with “interim recommendations” for COVID-19 prevention in preK-12 schools, which noted the administration’s “overarching goal is 100% in-person learning for the entire 2021-2022 school year” and that all fall athletics should start on time.

The recommendations include at least 3-feet social distancing and voluntary testing of public K-6 students and unvaccinated staff, private K-6 students and unvaccinated staff in high-risk communities, and unvaccinated 7th-12th graders in high-risk communities. While daily cleaning of schools, buses and restrooms are recommended, “continuous spot disinfection of high touch surfaces” and the use of electrostatic sprayers and foggers is no longer necessary, according to the report.

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