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Lamont highlights COVID-19 outbreaks, imposes no mask mandate

Gov. Ned Lamont flagged recent COVID-19 outbreaks involving Connecticut residents Wednesday but made no move to reinstate a mask-wearing mandate, even with all eight counties in the state having been designated areas of “substantial” transmission.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added Litchfield County to the list Tuesday night, an indication that all Connecticut counties had experienced more than 50 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over seven days. Earlier, the state Department of Public Health had recommended that all state residents over the age of 2 years — vaccinated or unvaccinated — return to wearing masks in indoor public spaces.

Foxwoods Resort Casino announced it will again require all employees to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, as of Thursday.

In an afternoon news release, Lamont and Dr. Deidre Gifford, Connecticut's acting public health commissioner, expressed concern over three particular COVID-19 outbreaks, including a much-publicized one last month in Provincetown, Mass. Twenty-eight Connecticut residents have been identified as among the hundreds of COVID-19 cases linked to events that took place there over a two-week period, according to Connecticut officials.

Twenty-six of the Connecticut residents traveled to Provincetown and two others had contact with at least one of those people. Twenty-six of the 28 cases, or 93%, involved fully vaccinated people. None of the residents required hospitalization.

The CDC’s recommendation that people wear masks in indoor public places in areas of high COVID-19 transmission came partially in response to the Provincetown outbreak.

Lamont and Gifford also cited a June birthday party attended by about 50 people, which resulted in 16 COVID-19 cases the next week.

“The party started outdoors and then moved indoors,” the officials said in the release. “Unvaccinated people at the party were four times as likely to test positive than those who were vaccinated, with a total of six cases among 33 fully or partially vaccinated attendees and 10 cases among 13 unvaccinated attendees. Four cases were hospitalized as a result.”

The third incident involved a COVID-19 outbreak in July at a summer camp that had about 50 campers and about 20 staff members. Thirteen cases of the disease were identified among campers. All staff members have been vaccinated and no cases have been identified among them.

The vaccination status of the campers, ages 11 to 14, is unknown.

Jason Guyot, Foxwoods’ president and chief executive officer, said that given the new CDC guidance, the Mashantucket Pequot-owned casino would require all employees to “mask up” regardless of their vaccination status. The requirement does not extend to patrons who have been fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated patrons are asked to wear masks for their own safety.

More than 75% of Foxwoods employees are fully vaccinated, according to the casino.

Mohegan Sun employees who provide proof of vaccination are allowed to work without a mask. Fully vaccinated patrons are not required to wear masks.

“The Mohegan Tribal Council, with advisement and recommendations from the Tribal Health Department and their medical advisors, is closely monitoring the recent guidance from the CDC,” James Gessner Jr., the Mohegan tribal chairman, said in a statement. “The health and safety of all our members, guests, team members and the surrounding community continues to be our highest priority.”

COVID-19 update

The state reported 537 new cases of COVID-19 had been detected since the previous day out of 16,037 new test results, a one-day positivity rate of 3.35%. Hospitalizations had dropped by two to 163. The death toll, which hasn’t been updated since last Thursday, is 8,293.

Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London had five COVID-19 patients Wednesday. Westerly Hospital had six.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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