New Haven likely first to impose local mask-wearing mandate



New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker on Friday said it’s likely his city will impose a citywide indoor mask mandate, a day after Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont signed an order giving municipal leaders the ability to require both vaccinated and unvaccinated people to wear face coverings inside public spaces in their communities.

Elicker, a Democrat, said the local order could take effect on Monday.

“We’ve had the mask mandate within municipal buildings ever since basically COVID started and we’ve continued even during the recent months when the cases were low. But we will be expanding that to places where people are likely to potentially expose other people to COVID,” he said during an event in Hartford with the governor.

While Elicker said he appreciates the governor providing municipalities more tools to address the pandemic, East Hartford Mayor Marcia Leclerc, a Democrat, questioned why Lamont, also a Democrat, did not issue a statewide mask mandate as cases of the delta variant continue to rise.

“COVID doesn’t know boundaries. It doesn’t know municipal boundaries. And I’m concerned that we don’t have an overarching plan in place for the state,” she said during a meeting of the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. “I have people that live in my community that travel down to the other end of the state for work. So I’m baffled by the inability that there isn’t a state mandate.”

Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases of COVID-19 has increased by 316, an increase of 171.6%, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins.

Lamont reiterated Friday that he’s giving municipal leaders the flexibility to issue their own mask mandates because the vaccination rates are varied across the state, with some communities at a 99% rate and others less than 50%.

“If we have to do something more broadly. Time will tell,” he said. “We’re not there yet.”

Some members of the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, a group that studies issues between state and local governments, said Friday there is some confusion about who is responsible for requiring masks in schools. While Lamont has an executive order still in place requiring indoor mask-wearing for unvaccinated people, that’s set to expire on Sept. 30.

“We’re not certain as board members whether or not we’re making the call or somebody else is,” said Lon Seidman, chairman of the Essex Board of Education. “A lot of schools are opening up in two or three weeks and we still don’t know what we can or can’t do.”

Meanwhile, Lamont said Friday he plans to issue an executive order “very soon” that will require nursing home staff to be vaccinated for COVID-19. On Thursday, he signed an order that requires weekly testing of unvaccinated nursing home workers.

“I want all the nurses, all the staff vaccinated. I think that should be a requirement. And we’re working out the details on that right now,” said Lamont, noting that he’s concerned there’s a “fair amount” of workers who haven’t gotten the shot.



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