In the Suburbs: It's time to mask up again Fairfield

The practice of wearing masks indoors has already begun in earnest because of Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive order for universal masking at least until Sept. 30. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recently changed its stance from only having unvaccinated people wear masks to universal masking in schools due to the impact of the delta variant.

And schools are where I’d like to focus this week. Our Fairfield Schools will enforce the governor’s order for all students during the first crucial month of school. While Fairfield University and Sacred Heart officials haven’t commented publicly about the masking order, my sense is that the two colleges will honor the mandate also.

Last week, since I was still teaching a summer high school program at Sacred Heart — where we required all students to wear masks — I had no problem when we were asked to mask up again for our last sessions of school. We had already begun the masking practice again at our Fairfield University Bookstore.

I applaud our Fairfield school officials for requiring masks, even if it is for the short term, because the practice should at least ease our teachers’ and parents’ minds and show that the district wants to put our children first. And while there are no guarantees of complete prevention, I do believe that the inconvenience of wearing a mask far outweighs potential future consequences.

The charter school where I teach reading has also continued the practice of masking for students and teachers, which was established at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year. That practice will likely be in place indefinitely, especially as our new school year gets underway.

Much of this re-masking practice in Connecticut communities revolves around concerns about the delta variant of COVID-19 — the fast-moving, highly contagious strain of the original virus, which allegedly could be spread more rapidly by unvaccinated individuals.

My belief remains that wearing a mask to ward off exposure to COVID-19 and the delta variant is the safest practice to follow for vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals. As we heard throughout the pandemic from the medical community, wearing masks can better resist the airborne particles that will spread this virus.

Certainly, other recommended prevention practices like proper handwashing, social distancing and avoiding large crowds indoors has definitely worked over the past year and a half. And President Joe Biden in an Aug. 10 press conference, reaffirmed that the vaccine is reducing the spread of the illness.

What I’ve been pleased to see over the past 17 months is a lot of improvement in the quality of masks. Recently, some adults coming into the bookstore are wearing clear masks and there seem to be more safe and medically acceptable masks being made with breathable material that will still provide protection.

The high school students in our summer program rarely complained about wearing masks. At times, I had to ask students to speak up or lower their masks if they were making a presentation, but they mostly recognized that these actions were in their best interests .

In addition to believing that re-masking, especially in our schools is critical to the safety of our children, I think that being vaccinated is equally important. Fairfield Health Director Sands Cleary said in a Aug. 6 Hearst Connecticut Media article that, “a higher vaccination rate among students and staff will help keep everyone in person, as well as provide some protection for those who can’t be vaccinated.”

At the time he said about 64 percent of Fairfield’s total population is vaccinated with 58 percent of 12-15 year olds vaccinated and 65 percent of 16 to 44-year olds vaccinated.

Current statistics about new COVID cases in hospitals seem to point toward those who are unvaccinated being more at risk for catching the illness and possibly spreading it. And other statistics indicate that even those who are vaccinated might still be contagious. In either case, I think we all need to continue being careful, especially in our schools.

On the subject of vaccines, I strongly agree with Nancy Alderman, president of Environment and Human Health, Inc., which is based in North Haven. In her Aug. 10 opinion piece for Hearst Connecticut Media, she said, “If people continue to view not getting vaccinated as a simple personal choice and refuse to get vaccinated, the variants will continue to develop, and science has no way of knowing where it will end up or how the country will be able to deal with it.

“As Victor Hugo wrote,, ‘The Liberty of one citizen ends where the liberty of another citizen begins’...Or, a simpler way to say the same thing: Your rights end where the rights of others begin,” she wrote.

Amen to that. I would never speak for others, but I am vaccinated and have every intention of following Gov. Lamont’s mask order at least through Sept. 30. I can only hope others will follow suit.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at stevengaynes44@gmail.com.