Fairfield officials lift indoor mask mandate

Fairfield First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick gives a thumbs up as she receives a COVID-19 vaccination from Jaime Vargas at Hartford HealthCare's new mass vaccination clinic on the west campus of Sacred Heart University, in Fairfield, Conn. March 10, 2021.

Fairfield First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick gives a thumbs up as she receives a COVID-19 vaccination from Jaime Vargas at Hartford HealthCare’s new mass vaccination clinic on the west campus of Sacred Heart University, in Fairfield, Conn. March 10, 2021.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

FAIRFIELD — Fairfield lifted the current indoor mask mandate effective immediately First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick announced Friday.

Kupchick said the decision to lift the mandate came as a result of many positive trends over the last few weeks and after consulting with the health director and emergency management director. The town instead will follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, which recommends masks be worn indoors and when in close contact with others.

The town also said if residents feel more comfortable wearing a mask while indoors, they should continue to do so.

“Over the last several weeks, we have seen a consistent downward trend across case rates and hospitalizations, which has also been seen statewide and across the country,” Kupchick said. “Both national and state public health professionals have advised the peak of the delta variant wave is likely behind us and our health director also advised me that, while conditions can always change and future increases could occur, it currently appears that this wave peaked in the town of Fairfield about two weeks ago.”

Kupchick said she put the mask mandate into effect on Aug. 23 to ask residents and neighboring towns to join her “as an added layer of protection against the very contagious delta variant.” Westport and Easton joined.

As of Friday, neither Westport or Easton had announced they were lifting the mandate and officials could not be reached for comment.

The decision to implement the mandate was based on Fairfield entering the state’s red category at the time, the highest category for positivity rates, and the high transmission category from the CDC.

Hospitalizations statewide and in Fairfield County were also climbing as the variant begin peaking.

“We put this temporary measure into effect while all indicators were trending in a negative direction,” Kupchick said. “I made it clear that we would continue to monitor all data and lift the mandate when multiple indicators consistently trended in a positive direction.”

Since the announcement of the mask mandate, Fairfield’s number begin to stagger and then ultimately fall. This week, Fairfield County was downgraded by the CDC from high transmission into the substantial category and the town has been downgraded by the state from red to orange.

Fairfield’s case rate is 11.99 per 100,000 residents as of Friday and the state’s positivity rate is at just 1.26 percent, according to state data.

Kupchick said Fairfield’s vaccination rate was an added factor for her decision to lift the mandate. The percentage of the population that is vaccinated climbed since the announcement of the mandate. Fairfield currently has 67 percent of its population fully vaccinated and 71 percent have received at least the first dose.

The age group with the lowest vaccination rate is those ages 18 to 24, which currently sits at 63 percent.

Kupchick said Fairfield expects these numbers to be higher due to data that shows most of the university students in town are vaccinated. These vaccination rates are counted in the student’s home states, however, Fairfield University sits at 92 percent vaccinated and Sacred Heart University reports being over 90 percent vaccinated as well.

“Vaccination is the most important defense against severe illness and hospitalization from COVID-19,” Kupchick said. “While vaccine breakthrough cases have occurred in Connecticut, the majority of those cases, are reporting symptoms to be mild and have not resulted in severe illness or hospitalizations.”

Kupchick said out of the nearly 2.3 million people that have completed their vaccine series, less than 0.6 percent of Connecticut’s fully vaccinated residents have contracted the virus.

“The most severe cases tend to be in unvaccinated individuals,” Kupchick said.

Kupchick’s lift of the town mandate has no effect on the school mask mandate, which comes from a governor executive order. She said town leaders do not have the authority to change that policy.

Businesses however, have the authority to continue requiring masks for their employees and customers.

“I hope our residents will be respectful of the decisions of businesses that choose to require masks or not, and to also be respectful to residents in town who choose to wear a mask, or not,” Kupchick said.

“I have done my best to guide our town through the pandemic and make thoughtful, informed decisions for our community,” she added. “We have all been through a lot together over the last 18 months and emotions continue to run high. I’m asking our community once again to please be respectful to each other regarding differences of opinion because in the end, we are neighbors.”