Hours after the State Senate joined the House in voting to continue the governor’s emergency powers yesterday, Governor Lamont extended previously issued executive orders mandating masks in schools and requiring vaccination or weekly testing of all school employees.
The Hartford Courant reported Tuesday that, over the past two weeks, Connecticut has had the fewest per-capita COVID-19 cases of any state and the third fewest COVID-19 hospitalizations per capita. Governor Lamont credits Connecticut’s high vaccination rate and COVID mitigation strategies, including masking in schools, for that success.
“I believe Connecticut has been smart in our response and we’ve been taking the right steps to help mitigate the spread of this virus to the best of our abilities,” Governor Lamont said. “That’s why we’ve gotten to a place where we currently have among the best results in the nation, and I’m just asking people to be cautious just a little bit longer until we can get this behind us.”
Studies released this week from the CDC show how effective masking is at reducing COVID transmission in schools, even for the more infectious delta variant. Researchers looked at COVID outbreaks in more than 1,000 Arizona schools this school year and found that only 8.4% of school-associated outbreaks occurred at schools that had enacted a mask requirement from the first day of school versus 59.2% that occurred in schools that never had a mask mandate.
“We’ve been advocating since the start of the school year that universal masking is the first line of defense in preventing the spread of COVID in our school systems,” said CEA President Kate Dias. “Keeping in mind that a large portion of our students are not vaccinated, and we haven’t seen positivity rates drop as we did last June, it makes sense to keep a mask mandate in place.”
The legislature extended the governor’s pandemic emergency powers through February 15, 2022. These emergency powers allow the governor to act quickly when threats to public health warrant it; the six leaders of the General Assembly have the authority to reject any executive orders. Like Connecticut, most northeastern states are requiring masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for certain professions.
Though the governor’s emergency powers will be in effect until February, it is not certain that mask mandates in schools will extend until that time.
“We look at the facts on the ground,” Lamont told reporters last week. “If we have an overwhelming number of kids who are vaccinated by the end of December, we can take a look at that.”
As of last week, 78% of Connecticut residents ages 16 and 17 had received at least one COVID vaccine dose, as had 67% of those 12-15.
Pfizer submitted data regarding its vaccine for children ages 5 through 11 to the FDA yesterday and has said it will soon file for emergency use authorization. The vaccine could be available to children in this age group by late October or November.
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