Gov. Ned Lamont issued an executive order Aug. 5 that empowers municipal officials to impose new mask mandates in response to rising COVID numbers and the threat posed by the Delta variant.
The Governor stopped short of issuing an official statewide call for universal masking, but the section of the executive order directed at towns and cities also expressly extends the authority to mandate masks to businesses, nonprofits, and others.
The section reads:
Any business, nonprofit organization, property owner, or state, regional, or municipal government or agency may, subject to the exceptions in subsection (a) of this order and in addition to or in the absence of any municipal order pursuant to Section 28-8a, as described in subsection (d) of this order, require the universal use of masks or face coverings or require staff to wear masks or face coverings in settings under their ownership or control, including, but not limited to, offices, places of public accommodation, public venues, or public meetings.
The action by the Governor, whose COVID-19 emergency powers were recently extended, also comes in response to all of Connecticut’s eight counties now meeting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) definition for regions showing “substantial” community transmission of COVID.
Substantial spread is defined as between 50 and 100 cases per 100,000 people, or a positivity rate of 8 percent to 10 percent over a seven-day period.
“Connecticut has one of the highest vaccination rates in the entire nation, and for that the residents of our state are to be applauded,” Governor Lamont told the Hartford Business Journal (HBJ). “That being said, there are some pockets of the state that are lagging behind others, and some leaders in those areas have requested the option of requiring everyone to wear masks until they can get their vaccination rates higher. While I continue to strongly advise that everyone wear masks while inside of public locations as recommended by the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], I urge everyone to get vaccinated because it’s the best thing you can do to protect yourself from this ongoing virus.”
Prior to the Governor’s order, the prevailing guidance was a recommendation from both the State of Connecticut Department of Health and the CDC “urging” everyone in substantial and high transmission areas to wear a mask, even those who are fully vaccinated—though the ultimate decision on masking policies was left up to businesses, stores, restaurants, theaters, and the operators of other indoor public spaces.
“The Delta variant and recent surge in COVID cases is highly concerning, and without definitive guidance from the State of Connecticut, it’s sensible and welcome for the Governor to formally give towns and cities the authority to take measures officials deem necessary to protect public health and safety,” said Cramer & Anderson Partner Randy DiBella, a veteran Municipal Law attorney.
“That said, it will not come as a surprise if tensions and issues arise as municipalities and businesses renew new mask mandates, and perhaps take other COVID safety measures,” Attorney DiBella added. “We strongly encourage municipal leaders to reach out to counsel in crafting the measures they plan to take to ensure the actions are done carefully, properly, and fairly.”
In fact, as municipalities and businesses across Connecticut deal with the question of new mask mandates, tensions have already arisen. The Hartford Courant reports that an employee of Real Art Ways in Hartford said he was fired for demanding a mandatory mask policy for the arts organization where masks for staff and guests are now strongly encouraged but not required.
“While safety is the obvious and absolute priority, ultimately we are concerned there will be fallout of a legal nature based on new masking policies that are adopted—or not adopted as the case may be,” Attorney DiBella said, encouraging municipal officials, business owners, or others with questions to reach out to any member of Cramer & Anderson’s highly-experienced Municipal Law team. Attorney DiBella and Partners Dan Casagrande, Perley Grimes, Lorry Schiesel, and Kent Mancini represent, as town attorney or as special counsel, 11 Connecticut town and cities.
Attorney DiBella may be reached directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at (860) 355-2631.
Working With Cramer & Anderson Amid COVID
On Aug. 5, Cramer & Anderson once again began requiring all visitors to our six regional offices to wear masks, including those who are vaccinated.
Our attorneys and staff are working in our offices, where proper sanitation and social distancing measures remain strictly observed. However, we also offer clients great flexibility and are available not only by phone or email but also via Zoom and other teleconferencing platforms. For more information, see the firm’s website or call the flagship office in New Milford at (860) 355-2631. Other regional offices are located in Danbury, Ridgefield, Kent, Washington Depot, and Litchfield.