Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments, made up of 22 towns and cities, urges Lamont to mandate indoor masks

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The 22 municipalities that make up the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments are asking for a statewide mask mandate, joining other community leaders who say Gov. Ned Lamont’s policy is unworkable and a health threat.

“We thoroughly discussed the positive impact on health that an indoor mask-wearing mandate would have, but we also note the difficulty that individual towns would have in enforcing a mandate at the municipal level,” Fred Allyn III, mayor of Ledyard and SCCOG chairman, wrote in a letter to Lamont Wednesday. “Because the transmission of COVID-19 does not stop at municipal borders or regional boundaries, we also worry that imposition of a mask mandate on a town-by-town basis would not be as impactful as a statewide mandate.”

During a teleconference call Wednesday, the council, along with representatives from the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe, military liaisons from the United States Naval Submarine Base and the United States Coast Guard Academy, discussed mask mandates for over 90 minutes.

“I write to you to respectfully request that you issue a new Executive Order to require indoor mask wearing statewide until such time as the coronavirus infection rate in Connecticut is in decline and counties in the state are no longer in the CDC’s substantial or high transmission categories,” Allyn said.

Lamont’s office did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday evening.

Lamont said earlier this month that he would not impose a statewide mask requirement for all residents but would allow individual towns and cities to require masks in public places if they wished to do so. New Haven became the first town or city in Connecticut to take advantage of the new municipal authority, before Hartford, Bridgeport, Stamford, Norwalk and Danbury followed suit.

“I think what we’re doing town by town makes sense,” Lamont said earlier this month. “I’m finding businesses, restaurants and mayors know their communities really well. Some communities are 90% vaccinated. Some are 50% vaccinated. So I’m not sure that we need a statewide mandate regarding masks at this point.”

Bloomfield and Hamden announced Wednesday that they will become the latest Connecticut municipalities to require masks in indoor public spaces.

Bethel, Brookfield, Danbury, New Fairfield, Redding and Ridgefield approved a policy last week that orders masks to be worn in all places accessible to the public regardless of vaccine status

Across the state, some municipal leaders are saying Lamont’s policy is unworkable, creating a patchwork of mandates in Connecticut.

“There are going to be 169 different ways of doing it,” said South Windsor Town Manager Michael Maniscalco last week. “We need a statewide mandate to make this work.”

Brookfield First Selectman Stephen Dunn said Lamont should set a statewide mask policy as he did last year during the worst of the pandemic before a vaccine was developed and distributed.

“I would not call it a heavy lift at all,” Dunn said last week. “This could get out of control.”

On Wednesday, Fairfield County had become the fifth Connecticut county with “high” COVID-19 transmission, as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as Connecticut continues to see high levels of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

Hartford, New Haven, Middlesex and New London counties had all already reached the “high” transmission threshold, while Litchfield, Tolland and Windham Counties are currently classified as having “substantial” transmission.

Courant staff writer Alex Putterman contributed to this report.

Jessika Harkay can be reached at jharkay@courant.com.

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