Officials in New Haven, Bridgeport, Danbury, Stamford, and Norwalk this week implemented mask mandates for all people—regardless of vaccination status—in all public settings, including restaurants and businesses.

Those mandates, based on Gov. Ned Lamont's Aug. 5 executive order authorizing municipalities to act, followed a continued surge in COVID-19 cases across the state.

As of Aug. 12, COVID-19 positivity rates in half of Connecticut's eight counties now exceed the CDC's threshold for high transmission.

Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven, and New London counties now exceed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's high transmission threshold for COVID-19—more than 100 weekly cases per 100,000 residents, or a positivity rate of 10% or higher.

The CDC issued guidance July 27 recommending that vaccinated people in areas with substantial or high transmission rates wear face masks indoors to lower the risk of transmitting COVID-19.

Only unvaccinated people in Connecticut were previously required to wear masks in public indoor places, with masks required for everyone in high-risk settings such as healthcare facilities or public transit.

Fairfield, Litchfield, New London, Tolland, and Windham counties all have substantial transmission—50 weekly cases per 100,000 residents, or an 8%-9.99% positivity rate.

Mandates

New Haven's mask mandate took effect Aug. 9. Hartford and Bridgeport's mandates were effective Aug. 11, followed by Aug. 12 for Stamford, Aug. 13 for Norwalk, and Aug. 15 for Danbury.

Stamford will also require masks at outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people.

Hartford has one of the highest positivity rates in the state and one of the lowest vaccination rates, prompting mayor Luke Bronin to implement a mask mandate.

"The Delta variant is out in our community, it is highly transmissible, and it is affecting younger people as well," he said.

"So we are particularly conscious at this moment when we are just a few weeks away from the start of school that our number one priority is to slow the spread of this variant."

Lamont issued an executive order Aug. 6 requiring that workers at nursing homes, residential care homes, assisted living facilities and other long-term care facilities get vaccinated by Sept. 7 or their workplaces will face daily $20,000 fines.

Vaccination Rates

Vaccination rates in Stamford and Norwalk are higher than in most Connecticut cities, although both have registered significant increases in cases.

The CDC says that while COVID-19 cases and deaths declined since a January 2021 peak—due in part to increased vaccination coverage—cases increased nationally by 300% between mid-June and late July, with subsequent increases in hospitalizations and deaths.

The CDC warns that unvaccinated people are at "substantial risk for infection, severe illness, and death."

The agency says the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus is driving that surge in cases, noting that all available vaccines in the U.S. offer high levels of protection against severe illness and death.

However, vaccinations have slowed nationally, with wide disparities among states, leaving unvaccinated people at "substantial risk for infection, severe illness, and death, especially in areas where the level of SARS-CoV-2 community transmission is high."

Connecticut is among the leading states for vaccinations, with 64% of all residents fully vaccinated and over 80% of the eligible population with at least one vaccine dose.

'Safe and Effective'

CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima urged employers to continue educating employees about the importance of getting vaccinated to stop transmission of COVID-19.

“Science has shown us that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and are key to ending this public health crisis," DiPentima said. "The more people who are vaccinated, the better the chances of shutting down transmission of the virus.

"We cannot rebuild Connecticut's economy without properly addressing COVID-19 and I urge employers to continue promoting vaccinations and educating their employees about the importance of getting vaccinated."

"The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and are key to ending this public health crisis."

CBIA's Chris DiPentima

The surge in COVID-19 cases has led to several major Connecticut employers, including Travelers and The Hartford, delaying scheduled office returns for tens of thousands of employees.

The new CDC guidelines also recommend universal indoor mask wearing for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.

The Lamont administration is expected to make a decision next week whether to mandate universal mask wearing when schools reopen.