'We are stronger together': Fairfield, Westport, Easton issue townwide mask policy

The towns of Fairfield, Westport and Easton have come together to issue a temporary townwide mask policy requiring all residents over the age of 2 to wear masks indoors in public places, whether vaccinated or not.

It goes into effect Monday.

The policy comes as a regional response to the spread of the delta variant, and because nearby cities Norwalk, Bridgeport and Stamford have already put mask policies in place.

“Transmission doesn’t stop at our borders, and since the governor has left it up to local authorities rather than a statewide approach, we are forced to look at a regional one,” Fairfield First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick said.

Fairfield and Westport were moved into the state’s red category on Thursday, the highest classification for the average daily rate. Easton was already classified as red.

“The Fairfield Health Department’s contact tracers are interviewing families in which multiple household members, regardless of vaccination status, are testing positive presumably due to the high transmissibility of the predominant delta variant,” Kupchick said.

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

“I am grateful that Westporters recognize the importance of wearing masks and getting vaccinated,” Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe said. “It is for our physical and mental health and safety that we remain vigilant, and at the same time, be respectful to others who may have differing opinions.

“We have come a long way in combating this virus,” he continued. “While this development may seem like a step backward, it is undoubtedly necessary until the time comes when all have the capacity to be vaccinated and COVID-19 is a more manageable, non-life-threatening virus. We are stronger together.”

Kupchick said the masking policy is “temporary” as the town will continue to watch the data and modify as conditions improve.

Indoor public spaces that require masks include retail establishments, restaurants, gyms, workout studios, galleries, museums, performance spaces, places of worship and government buildings.

Town officials said businesses may still require proof of vaccination to enter, but a mask will also be required.

With school starting soon officials also ask residents to be mindful of transmission

“We want to make sure that cases do not spike and jeopardize our ability to safely get the kids into their classrooms,” Easton First Selectman Dave Bindelglass said.

With hospitalizations in Fairfield County on the rise, sitting at 82 as of Thursday morning, town leaders said the most effective way to prevent serious illness and hospitalization is to get vaccinated.

The state Department of Public Health reports the majority of hospitalizations in Connecticut are among unvaccinated individuals.

“The COVID- 19 vaccine is the most powerful tool against infection and severe illness, but the increasing number of breakthrough infections after vaccination are a reminder that no vaccine is 100 percent effective,” said Mark Cooper, the director of the health district that serves Westport, Weston and Easton.

Cooper said as long as there continues to be COVID cases in Westport, it is important to continue the “use of the other tools at our disposal to reduce transmission” such as masking when indoors and in large outdoor crowds, washing hands, social distancing and limiting gathering sizes.

“This is particularly important as we approach the start of the new school year and to those young people who are unable to be vaccinated as they return to the classroom,” Cooper said.