Governor Proposes Ending Statewide Mask Mandate for Schools, Childcare Centers
The following article was first posted on Berchem Moses PC’s Connecticut Labor and Employment Law Journal. It is reposted here with permission.
Gov. Ned Lamont announced a plan Feb. 7 to end the statewide mask mandate for schools and childcare centers in Connecticut effective Feb. 28, 2022.
The plan places the decision whether to require masks in schools and childcare centers with local authorities.
With Lamont’s emergency powers set to expire on Feb. 15, 2022, the governor reached an agreement with legislative leaders to continue certain executive orders past the Feb. 15 date.
One of those executive orders allows the State Department of Education and the Department of Public Health to establish rules regarding mask mandates in schools and childcare centers.
The statewide mask mandate would be dropped Feb. 28, while the Department of Public Health would then issue guidance for school districts on how to decide whether to institute a mask mandate.
DPH does not plan to provide concrete metrics to determine whether a mask mandate should be present.
Other guidance will be issued for handling COVID-19 cases in schools where masks are not required.
Although the availability of vaccines is a major driver of the decision to eliminate the mask mandate, the decision applies to children who are currently too young to be vaccinated.
After the statewide mask mandate for schools and childcare centers is removed, local leadership will need to decide whether to require masks in these settings.
Given the passionate opinions on all sides of the question of mask mandates, this will be a hot button issue for school districts as they balance the needs and interests of school staff, students, and parents.
Unions are also likely to be vocal on this topic and different unions within a district may advocate for different outcomes.
While districts should prepare to take on this decision with the current timeline in place, Lamont indicated this plan is not definitive.
Part of the plan requires that the legislature maintain the executive order allowing SDE and DPH to have control over a statewide mask mandate so that it will continue through Feb. 28 and then be dropped.
In addition, the governor did not rule out the possibility of changing course based on changing conditions and new variants.
However, given the agreement with legislative leaders and the short timeframe between the announcement and the effective date, it is highly likely that the plan will proceed.
About the author: Rebecca Goldberg is an associate with Berchem Moses PC. Her practice focuses on labor and employment matters in state and federal courts, and administrative agencies.
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