Greenwich to relax COVID mandates: No weekly testing for town employees, businesses can set mask policies

Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo said that soon there will no longer be a mask mandate covering private businesses and clubs in town. They instead will have the ability to put in place their own policies.

Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo said that soon there will no longer be a mask mandate covering private businesses and clubs in town. They instead will have the ability to put in place their own policies.

Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

GREENWICH — Recent progress in the town’s COVID-19 fight means the mask mandates will soon be loosened.

First Selectman Fred Camillo announced Wednesday afternoon that while the local mask-wearing mandate will remain in place for all town-owned buildings, including Town Hall, the mandate will no longer cover privately-owned businesses in town. Those businesses, he said, will instead have the ability to decide for themselves if they want to require masks for customers.

“We said well over a month ago when we put the mask mandate in place that we would monitor it and it wasn’t forever,” Camillo said. “We said we would relax them as soon as we can and the metrics we used are things like people coming back to school, people coming back from vacation and events with thousands of people. We’ve had a few already to see if there would be spikes and there weren’t any. And we’ve been looking at hospitalizations in town. So we’re going to be relaxing the mandate for private businesses. If they want to continue, they can certainly do that.”

Camillo said while people should “be careful and be cautious,” if a business or private club no longer wished to require masks, they were not mandated to do so.

The actual date for the mandate to end has not been finalized but Camillo said he expected it to either be late this week or early next week.

Camillo’s reason for the change? Continued success with vaccinations.

He said the number of residents who are at least partially vaccinated is up to 85.64 percent of the 52,482 eligible people in town and the level for those who are fully vaccinated is up to 79 percent.

“We are starting to see the fruits of all the protocols we put in place,” Camillo said.

Because of that, Camillo said on Wednesday he would no longer be looking to implement weekly testing among town employees who have not gotten vaccinated.

Last month Camillo put in place a policy requiring town employees to either get vaccinated by Sept. 27 or face weekly testing for COVID. But, he said, while data is still being collected from all town departments, he is satisfied with what he has seen.

“We’ve looked at it and it’s looking very good as far as vaccinations in Town Hall,” Camillo said. “Some departments are at 100 percent and others are over 90. We think we’re fine. Right now we don’t see a need for testing. If it was a lot lower, then we would. We’re telling people if you’re not vaccinated, wear a mask and we should be fine.”

Camillo said he would be looking for more feedback from town department heads before making any decisions on the mask mandate for town buildings.

“They know at some point it will end too,” Camillo said.

This comes as the town saw an uptick in the number of cases. While there had been a downward trend over the last three weeks, cases increased by 69 new diagnoses of COVID-19 among residents this past week, up from the 49 new cases that had been reported the week prior.

Greenwich Hospital, however, is down to having only one COVID-positive patient, admitted on Wednesday. Dana Marnane, the vice president of public relations for Greenwich Hospital, said that patient is on a ventilator in the intensive care unit.

Throughout the Yale New Haven Health System, which Greenwich Hospital is a part of, the number of COVID-positive patients was down to 73. She said Thomas Balcezak, the executive vice president and chief clinical officer of YNHHS, reported earlier in the week that hospitalizations throughout the system were down 45 percent from where they had been two weeks ago.

“We still need to remain vigilant and when appropriate, wear a mask and social distance,” Marnane said. “And people need to get vaccinated and wash their hands.”

Camillo said the town advises residents and organizations to hold the events they’ve planned, but to do them cautiously. He said this was something they would continue be monitored but he was happy with what he has seen in recent weeks. He thanked residents who “have taken it seriously and have done the right thing and are looking out for their neighbors.”

“This is going to be with us,” Camillo said. “We don’t know how many variants are coming down but certainly we want people to live normal lives. Wash your hands. Keep distance. Bring a mask with you in case you’re going to a place that requires a mask. ... But get outside and enjoy yourselves. Hats off to Greenwich for adhering to the protocols. When we did the requirement for the masks, we were in the red zone and cases were climbing. We said the whole point was to flatten it out and we’ve done that.”

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com