Easton further enforces mask mandate while Westport relaxes policy

Easton First Selectman David Bindelglass, in Easton, Conn. July 1, 2021.

Easton First Selectman David Bindelglass, in Easton, Conn. July 1, 2021.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

Easton has been having trouble enforcing the mask mandate since the new, regional policy was issued several weeks ago alongside Westport and Fairfield, Easton First Selectmen Dave Bindelglass said.

He added that while the number of positive cases are trending in the right direction, the mandate is still in effect.

“As you know, several weeks ago I joined my Republican colleagues, the first selectmen of Fairfield and Westport, in declaring a mask mandate inside all buildings in our respective towns,” Bindelglass said. “We have all struggled with enforcement and this week our respective police chiefs got together to discuss this as well.”

To further enforce the mandate, Bindelglass said police will be called to handle situation.

“We all want to be perfectly clear that the mask mandate is real and as you know, if you attended the last Easton Board of Education meeting, the police will be called to enforce it,” he added. “I am sorry that they have needed to be put in this position, and worse they are being taken away from more important duties to do this which is also a waste of your tax dollars. Nonetheless, the mandate will be enforced.”

Fairfield also had to call the police to a school board meeting, while Westport hasn’t reported any issues.

On Sept. 17, police had to be called to the Easton Board of Education meeting because people were either not wearing their masks or wearing them incorrectly. Police were brought into the meeting to enforce it and residents were told to wear their mask properly or they had to leave, Bindelglass said.

The incident that occurred during the Easton board of education meeting was not the only incident Easton has faced. Bindelglass said there have been several prominent issues within the town buildings. In fact, the night before that board of education meeting, several residents attended a town meeting and did not abide by the mask policy. Bindelglass said residents were simply not wearing the mask properly or at all.

He added that because the town official didn’t really discuss it with police the incident set a precedent and was allowed to continue and it repeated itself the next night at the school board of education meeting.

Bindelglass said they have not had any issue within town buildings since the school board meeting and is unaware of any issues occurring in private businesses.

While Easton has been dealing with the issue of enforcement, Westport and Fairfield have not had issues as of late.

“I am not aware of the police department responding to any mask related issues in the recent past,” Wetsport Police Department Lieutenant David Wolf said. “I do not believe that there has been any issues enforcing the mask mandate.”

Unlike in Easton, the mask policy in Wesport has actually been relaxed. Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe has amended the town’s mask mandate, allowing those participating in gyms, fitness centers and some athletic activities to go unmasked.

The decision has been quite controversial with some in town criticizing the policy, and calling out the inconsistencies in the town’s COVID protocols. However, according to an executive order issued Sept. 1, Marpe declared that masks “are not required for no-contact sports where distance can be maintained.”

During the initial announcement of the mask mandate, Fairfield officials pointed to Fairfield and Westport being moved into the state’s red category, the highest classification for the average daily rate, as the reason for the mandate. At the time, Easton was already classified as red.

Fairfield County had also just became the fifth county in Connecticut to be moved into the “high transmission” category, the most severe level as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Recently, during the reporting period between Sept. 5 and Sept. 18, the amount of cases in Fairfield dropped by more than 40, according to the State Department of Public Health. A total of 95 cases were reported in the first week, with only 54 cases reported in the second week.

Easton’s numbers stayed relatively the same with five reported in week one and six reported in week two. Westport’s numbers decreased as well with 35 confirmed cases in week one and only 16 cases in week two, according to the state department.

First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick expressed her gratitude to residents after the recent decline in cases.

This statement comes after Fairfield faced several mask issues in the past, including comments on social media and tempers flaring at a school board meeting, that forced Kupchick to express her disappointment with residents. Kupchick said “we are better than this” and also added that the beauty of Fairfield can’t just be on the surface, but “it must be reflected in behavior and in our respect for one another.”

Her tone has since changed.

“I am encouraged that our community is taking the necessary steps to curb the impact of the COVID-19 Delta Variant, as we've seen recent improvements in the CDC’s and State’s categorizations of Fairfield County and the town,” Kupchick said in a recent town update. “There has been some leveling in various indicators, and I appreciate our residents continued efforts to help limit the spread of the virus.”