The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that vaccinated people, under certain conditions, wear face masks indoors to lower the risk of contracting COVID-19.
Released July 27, the new guidance calls for fully vaccinated people to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas with substantial or high COVID-19 transmission rates.
The following day, Hartford and New London counties crossed the CDC's threshold for substantial transmission—50 weekly cases per 100,000 residents, or an 8%-9.99% positivity rate—with New Haven County added to that list July 29.
By the end of the week, as cases continued rising across the state, only Litchfield County remained below the CDC's transmission threshold.
Connecticut Department of Public Health officials issued an alert that the agency “strongly recommends” that residents of those seven impacted counties wear masks in public indoor spaces.
Over the seven previous days, new COVID-19 cases more than doubled in New London County and almost doubled in Hartford County.
As of July 30, Connecticut's seven-day positivity rate was 2.56%, the highest since April 27.
State Mandates, Schools
Gov. Ned Lamont said this week his administration is reviewing the new CDC guidance, indicating he likely will follow the agency's recommendations, as the state has done in the past.
He also told reporters he was "open" to different rules for different counties, noting the range of new cases and vaccination rates across the state.
The new CDC guidelines also recommend universal indoor mask wearing for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.
The CDC issued guidance earlier this month recommending that only people who have not been vaccinated wear masks in schools.
Lamont said he will make a decision "within two weeks" whether to mandate universal mask wearing when schools reopen next month.
The governors of California and New York both issued vaccination mandates for state employees this week, a step Lamont said he was not yet ready to take.
The CDC also now recommends:
- That fully vaccinated people might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission, particularly if they are immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19, or if they have someone in their household who is immunocompromised, at increased risk of severe disease, or not fully vaccinated.
- Fully vaccinated people who have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 get tested three to five days after exposure, and to wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.
Connecticut is among the leading states for vaccinations, with 63% of all residents fully vaccinated and over 80% of the eligible population with at least one vaccine dose.
COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are surging across much of the country, particularly in southeastern, midwestern, and southwestern states with low vaccination rates.
Lamont also indicated this week that renewed travel restrictions were "a real possibility" given the high number of cases in some states.