HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – Hartford is the second city in the state to require masks in public and private businesses regardless of vaccination status.
Mayor Luke Bronin’s office announced on Tuesday that folks visiting public buildings and private businesses will be required to wear masks indoors beginning midnight on Tuesday, Aug. 10.
This comes after New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker set a mask mandate for all indoor establishments on Monday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classified Hartford County as an area with high COVID-19 community transmission. Hartford, New Haven, and New London counties are all under the high community transmission classification. The five other counties are classified as being in the “substantial transmission” category.
The mandate will apply to anyone indoors in Hartford, with the exceptions of those with relevant medical conditions, those under the age of 2, those eating or drinking, and those who are alone in an indoor space or in an office setting where there are partitions between them and other people.
Inside the New York Deli & More Tuesday afternoon, the salad bar remained closed, and they still have social distancing stickers on the floor. Their salad bar has been closed for more than a year now. They had hoped to reopen it in September, but now it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.
Now, folks coming into this restaurant as well as other indoor spaces in the city of Hartford will have to wear their masks.
“I don’t understand why we’re doing it. If the state’s 80 percent vaccinated, where are we going? What’s the reason?” questioned one customer who only wanted to be identified as Will.
Laura Diaz of New York Deli & More described to News 8, “For us, it’s the same. But for the customers, it’s kind of hard for them because they were getting used to not wearing them [the masks].”
“Masks are a slight inconvenience, but we know that they help to slow the spread,” said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin.
“I think that’s just gonna drive more people away from coming back into the office,” said deli customer Don Roberts.
Mayor Bronin says the mandate went into effect because the city’s COVID case rate has more than doubled over the last two weeks, “and we’ve seen similar increases in other cities as well – even those with different demographics and vaccination rates.”
He went on to say, “We’re instituting a mask mandate tonight to slow the spread as we continue our vaccination efforts, and we’ll assess this mandate on an ongoing basis over the next few weeks. COVID-19 is going to be with us in some form for a while, but if enough folks get vaccinated, we’ll hopefully get to a place where we can treat it like the flu. But right now, too many people – especially children – remain vulnerable. We’re not asking folks to avoid going out to dinner or to the store – just wear a mask if you do. It’s a minor inconvenience that will help us all lead relatively normal lives.”
There are exceptions to the mask mandate for people with relevant medical conditions, children under the age of 2, those eating or drinking, and those alone in an indoor space or office setting with partitions.
For all others who are vaccinated or not, they will have to mask up starting on Wednesday.
In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Superintendent Dr. Leslie Torres Rodriguez discussed the decision to require masking for all educators, staff, and students this fall.
“We are going to continue with the masking protocol we had last year,” the superintendent explained.
Dr. Rodriguez added there are four changes from last year:
- All students will be in-person, no remote learning option this year
- Vaccinated staff and students will not need to quaranteen if they are asymptomatic
- Social distancing in the classroom and all spaces within the school: they are aiming for at least three feet – a change from last year at six feet
- Visitors will be allowed in school buildings but will be required to undergo a health screening
“70 percent of all Hartford Public School employees have gotten vaccinated,” said Dr. Rodrigues. She added that 80 percent of teachers are also vaccinated.
“This is really a community-wide, collective effort…We want our students back in school, every day,” Dr. Rodriguez concluded.