Masks encouraged for state employees with COVID rates high in Connecticut

Danbury officials distributed masks to small businesses on Friday morning. Business with 50 employees or less could apply for up to two masks per employee. Friday, April 8, 2020, at City Hall, Danbury, Conn.

Danbury officials distributed masks to small businesses on Friday morning. Business with 50 employees or less could apply for up to two masks per employee. Friday, April 8, 2020, at City Hall, Danbury, Conn.

H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media

With COVID-19 cases rising in Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration is encouraging state employees to wear masks at work.

In an email to state employees Friday, the Department of Administrative Services cited a map from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that most of Connecticut is recording “high” levels of COVID-19 transmission.

“Over the past several weeks, CT and our surrounding states have experienced steady increases in COVID-19 transmission, and cases reported to state agency administrators have increased significantly as well,” the email stated. “CDC and CT [Department of Public Health] recommend that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask while indoors in the presence of others, including in state-owned buildings, when COVID-19 Community Levels are ‘high.’”

Connecticut has experienced a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations over the past two months, with key metrics reaching their highest levels since February. On Friday, the Department of Public Health reported that it has recorded 9,825 new cases over the past week, with 14.2% of PCR tests coming back positive.

The state currently has 354 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, down slightly from earlier this week but nearly four times as many as in early April.

According to the CDC, six of Connecticut’s eight counties are currently experiencing “high” levels of COVID-19, meaning residents there are advised to wear masks in indoor public spaces. The other two counties — Tolland and Fairfield — have “medium” levels of COVID-19, meaning residents who are at high risk for serious illness are advised to consider masking.

Max Reiss, a Lamont spokesperson, said the administration hopes to encourage “basic personal responsibility and safety measures.”

“It’s not a requirement, it’s a guidance,” Reiss said. “If we’re in high transmission, you’re strong advised to wear a mask around your peers.”

Though Connecticut has not had a statewide mask mandate since last summer and is highly unlikely to reinstate one anytime soon, Reiss said the governor’s message to to the public is that masks remain an important method of protecting residents from COVID-19.

“We’re at a point now where we have the tools in place and people know what those tools are to keep themselves and their families safe,” Reiss said. “It’s getting a vaccine, getting a boost, wearing a well-fitting mask.”

Infectious disease experts in Connecticut say they continue to wear masks in public indoor spaces and will do so for the near future.

“I still wear masks when I go indoors, especially when I know that it’s going to be crowded or that the ventilation doesn’t look as good,” said Dr. Marwan Haddad, who chairs Community Health Center, Inc.'s COVID-19 advisory group. “If I’m outdoors I’m not wearing a mask at this point, but definitely I’m still masking when I go indoors.”

alex.putterman@hearstmediact.com