HARTFORD, Conn — Gov. Ned Lamont recommends that the statewide mask mandate for schools come to an end at the end of February.
The mask requirements have been part of Lamont's executive orders, the temporary powers granted to him by the state legislature since the early days of the pandemic in 2020.
The governor recommends that the statewide school mask mandate should come to an end on Feb. 28. State officials are now putting the decision on wearing masks in schools in the hands of local municipal and school officials. The communities will be able to make decisions that are right for them, state officials said.
In order for this plan to move forward, the legislature will have to extend the governor's executive order past its expiration date of Feb. 15 and then end it on Feb. 28.
"It will be up to the superintendents of schools and mayors to make that election themselves. Because every town is different, every town has its certain different sense of what the vaccination is, what the risks are," Lamont said.
The Connecticut Education Association said that is one of their concerns moving forward.
"What we know is that our teachers come from other towns, we know that our students come from other towns, they go home to other towns and so that really means that whatever we do in one community, does in fact impact the others," said Kate Dias, president of CEA.
However, local leaders may be ready to the decision on their own, according to the executive director of of the CT Conference of Municipalities.
"I think more of our communities are accepting of that and think in many cases that's more appropriate because it allows communities to do in their school systems what's right for them," said Joe Delong.
The DPH said it will be offering guidance to school districts about masking and other covid protocols.
"All of the mitigation strategies that we have, you ramp them up or you ramp them down based on the amount of disease you have in your community. And what I'm hoping for is that we will have less disease in the community," said DPH commissioner, Dr. Manisha Juthani.
With more access to boosters, vaccines and N95 masks, Lamont believes "We now have the tools to keep ourselves safe."
There are federal mask mandates for public transportation, so that will not be affected by the end of Lamont's executive powers. This means people will still need to wear masks on planes, trains, and public bus services.
Lamont's civil preparedness and public health emergency declarations have been extended multiple times since March 2020 and are now set to expire on Feb. 15.
Lamont has worked to keep students in the classroom, without creating a “parallel universe” where some kids go to school and others are remote.
The governor announced last month that the state has distributed 670,000 COVID-19 rapid self-tests to public and private K-12 schools and early childcare providers statewide.
The allocation is the first phase of his administration’s distribution of self-tests for schools and early childcare providers.
Connecticut officials have insisted on full in-person school learning.
“The most important difference between now and then is we have even more tools to keep yourself safe,” Lamont said.
Some unionized Connecticut educators wore black last month to draw attention to their demands for more rapid test kits in schools and flexibility in allowing for short-term remote learning. Others wore red to show their support for safe in-person learning.
The demonstration was organized by a coalition of education labor groups, who asserted that a majority of their members were unable to access testing or masks before returning to school from the holiday break on Jan. 3.
Doug Stewart is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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