New London and Groton to end indoor mask mandate Wednesday
New London — Citing high vaccination rates and a dropping number of COVID-19 infections, New London and Groton have agreed to lift an indoor mask mandate starting Wednesday.
New London and Groton were the last municipalities in southeastern Connecticut to maintain a mask mandate despite calls for a regional approach to combat the spread of COVID-19. Norwich ended its mandate, which had lasted two months, on Oct. 22.
The move comes with guidance from Ledge Light Health District and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Stephen Mansfield, director of health for Ledge Light, said in a statement that 81.7% of residents of New London County are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, making it the second highest rate of vaccination among the state’s eight counties. All municipalities within the health district have experienced a steady decline in the number of new cases over the past eight weeks, he said.
As of Nov. 3, according to Connecticut health data, 58.3% of residents in Groton and 58.37% of residents in New London are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Tuesday’s announcement comes with the recent approval of vaccines for school-aged children.
“We believe that based on the data and the promise of more vaccinations to come, this lifting of the indoor mask mandate for all three municipalities is the correct course,” New London Mayor Michael Passero said in a statement. “We’re grateful to Stephen Mansfield and the staff of Ledge Light Health District for their guidance in this regional approach.”
Mansfield and municipal leaders continue to strongly recommend that all individuals, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, continue to wear masks indoors.
“Mask wearing is a simple, common-sense mitigation measure that helps prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Mansfield said in a statement, referring to additional guidance from the CDC.
Connecticut continues to require that masks be worn by everyone in health care facilities, facilities housing vulnerable populations, public and private transit vehicles, correctional facilities, schools and child care facilities. Businesses and state and local government offices have the option to require masks to be worn in their establishments.
In a joint statement, Groton City Mayor Keith Hedrick and Groton Town Manager John Burt said: “The City and Town of Groton and City of New London have been working closely with Ledge Light Health District to monitor the transmission rates in our area. We are grateful for the support of our residents that helped us get to the point where transmission rates have decreased significantly, and vaccination rates have increased, allowing us to lift the mandate.”
Passero said he was consulting with city staff this week to determine whether to continue to mandate masks for visitors at municipal buildings. While some boards and commissions in New London have resumed in-person meetings, others will continue to hold Zoom meetings because of construction at City Hall. Construction is expected to be ongoing for the next month.
Burt said masks no longer will be required for people entering town facilities in Groton, beginning Wednesday, and there are no special protocols in place. Meetings will continue in a hybrid format, which means they are held in person but a remote option is available.
He said the current Groton Town Council formed a work group to determine ways to encourage more vaccination.
The City of Groton has been holding meetings in person for several months.
Hedrick said the city is working with Ledge Light on vaccination clinics, with one held last week and additional clinics that will be held in the future at the municipal building in Groton City. He said COVID-19 testing is taking place 2 to 6 p.m. every Tuesday at the municipal building.
"We still encourage people, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, to wear a mask if you are in an indoor, crowded environment," he said.
Day Staff Writer Kimberly Drelich contributed to this report.
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