Conn. (WTNH) — Governor Ned Lamont’s office announced Wednesday they are requiring all student-athletes to continue wearing masks regardless of vaccination status.
The CIAC and state health officials were set to drop the mask mandate for vaccinated athletes but a spokesperson for the governor said because of the recent spike in COVID cases, the administration is pulling back.
A growing number of schools were refusing to switch over to proposed new public health rules. Three towns had said the proposed new mask policy by the governing body of scholastic sports, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC), was discriminatory.
Lucas Johnson, 17, is a senior at a technical high school in Danielson.
“They are there for sports, for healthy competition and what this rule is going to do is just going to create strife, division, and arguments,” Johnson said.
He said student-athletes came to him upset because of proposed new rules crafted by the State Department of Public Health (DPH) and the CIAC.
The CIAC was prepared to allow winter sports athletes to drop the mask mandate during games if they were vaccinated. Athletes who are unvaccinated would have still had to mask up.
Johnson said kids are fearful.
“They fear as though they are going to become the subject for bullying and they already feel it’s discrimination from their school because masking up seems as though it’s a punishment,” he said.
As a student leader, Johnson has written to lawmakers hoping they will step in.
Griswold, Ellington, and Vernon wanted the state to reconsider the proposed switch and were opting to have every athlete mask up to avoid legal issues surrounding privacy and potential discrimination. Now they don’t have to worry.
“If kids within a district or people within a district are making assumptions and treating people differently based on whether they are wearing a mask or not, that’s really a cultural problem, not a COVID problem. and we should be beyond that,” said CIAC Executive Director Glenn Lungarini.
All students regardless of vaccination status will continue to wear a mask during practices and bus rides.
In a statement Wednesday, the Governor’s office said the following:
“The guidance is aimed at ensuring schools remain open, people are protected from the spread of COVID-19, and ensuring kids can participate in-person without disruption.”
Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani also released a statement Wednesday, saying “although a previous assessment was made by DPH that would have allowed the choice for fully vaccinated participants to unmask during sports competitions, the rapid rise in COVID-19 community case rates and the emergence of this more contagious variant has forced us to reconsider that assessment.”
Meantime, sports like swimming, gymnastics, and jumpers in track and field do not wear masks regardless of vaccination status because it’s a safety hazard.
The CIAC director told News 8 everything is fluid and subject to change.