HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — As the COVID-19 numbers continue to decline in Connecticut, a change to the mask mandate for schools could be coming within a few days.
Meantime, Mask Choice groups are popping up all around the state, and there are some high-profile names weighing in on the debate.
These parents want the choice to send their child to school with or without a mask.
Connecticut parents with lots of influence are speaking out. A tweet from former UCONN quarterback and now ESPN anchor Dan Orlovsky says, “It should be our choice as parents!!”
What will policymakers do?
Parents like Erica Garvey are galvanized and want to change the minds of those in charge.
“There is a disconnect between what’s happening at the higher level at our state and what’s happening at the lower level,” Garvey said. “And we need them to come together.”
She helped found Mask Choice Fairfield. Groups like hers are popping up all around the state, and their social media presence is strong.
Parents say children are suffering learning loss, speech issues and anxiety because of the mandate.
“We’ve done everything that’s been asked for us,” Garvey said. “But now what we are seeing is that by doing all of that…it has come at the detriment of our children.”
At a recent board of education meeting, the executive director of special education in Fairfield reported the district spent nearly $ million on contracted help for students due to COVID-19 masking.
“We’ve had an increase over the past couple of months in the number of psychiatric evaluations … speech is another huge driver of the increase,” Rob Mancusi told the audience.
Lawmakers are listening.
State Representative Vincent Candelora wants the masks removed. He states like New York and Virginia are dropping their mandates.
“if science dictates this, then let’s follow the science. Not follow politics,” the House Minority Leader said.
The governor is being briefed by health and education leaders on the latest metrics.
“If we make this move, we’re giving locals the opportunity to make that decision for themselves,” Lamont said.
Lamont faces an uphill battle with teachers’ unions who want masks to remain on.
“Let’s not forget we still have large numbers of unvaccinated students in our classrooms, and COVID sub-variants are proving more transmissible,” CEA President Kate Dias said. “We must continue to do all we can to keep students and staff safe and schools open.”
In the last week of January, COVID-19 cases reported by school districts showed low positivity rates.
Week January 27, 2022
- 52,135 total full-time educators
- 1,138 employees positive covid cases
- 513,079 total students enrolled
- 6,024 positive covid cases
*State DPH data week of 1/27
*State Dept. of Education at a glance
The state health and education agencies have discretion on the mask policy.
House Speaker Matt Ritter is looking for a rubric.
“If we knew that we had set metrics that school districts could rely on, I think that goes a long way,” Ritter said.
For parents like Garvey, it’s about everyone feeling comfortable.
“For some children that means not masking. and for others, it means wearing an N-95 mask,” Garvey said. “We want to let parents – parent.”
Lawmakers expect to extend the governor’s executive orders through April.
News 8 spoke to Dr. Ulysses Wu from Hartford HealthCare to see what medical experts are advising.
“It depends on the age group, it depends on the vaccination status, and it does depend on the current epidemiology,” Wu said. “From a science standpoint, it’s probably not time to end that requirement per se, but like I said, science does not exist in a vacuum, and there are many other factors that go into this decision.”
Lawmakers are working on having a hearing on the mask issue as well as the other executive orders.
The 2022 legislative session begins in less than a week.