Parents call on Connecticut lawmakers to drop mask mandates in schools now

The statewide mandate ends Feb. 28, shifting control back to local school boards. But during the hearing, many parents urged state lawmakers to end the mandate immediately and leave masking completely up to parents.

News 12 Staff

Feb 8, 2022, 4:56 PM

Updated 897 days ago

Share:

Dozens of people urged state lawmakers to drop school mask requirements altogether, leaving the choice in parents' hands at a six-hour virtual hearing Tuesday.
The statewide mandate ends Feb. 28, shifting control back to local school boards. But during the hearing, many parents urged state lawmakers to end the mandate immediately and leave masking completely up to parents.
"Over the past two years you've said things like, 'Just a little while longer' or 'We'll have to look at the numbers.' But those are childish excuses. You all sound like my 8-year-old asking for five more minutes of TV time," said parent Erica Garvey.
Connecticut lawmakers will vote on 11 of Gov. Ned Lamont's COVID-19 orders starting Thursday, deciding whether to pass them as laws for the next two months.
The most controversial order lets state education officials keep the authority to issue school mask orders. On Monday, Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker announced she would drop the statewide mandate at the end of this month. Local school boards will be able to pass their own mandates, if they wish.
"It's going to be challenging for districts to decide. Do they want their younger children to remain masked or not? Or do they want to only unmask the older children?" said Connecticut Public Health Commissioner Dr. Manisha Juthani.
Although they were outnumbered my mask opponents, several parents said it's too soon to drop the statewide rules.
"Protect people from other people, or just give it up already," said Stratford resident Tina Manus.
Some teachers say they are also torn.
"Just over half of our members, about 55%, favor a mask requirement. Forty (percent) are ready for that to drop, and 5 (percent) really just aren't sure," said Connecticut Education Association President Kate Dias.
State House Speaker Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) says Democrats have the votes to extend all 11 of Gov. Lamont's COVID orders. Ritter says he's not yet prepared to hand masking decisions over to parents alone.
"For those that believe that we need to be able to respond in real time, if things get worse or there's another variant, it allows the mandate to go back statewide," said Connecticut House Speaker Matt Ritter.
Lawmakers will also be voting on requiring boosters at nursing homes and protections for tenants. Lawmakers are expected to declare a new state of emergency, but Lamont will no longer be able to issue new executive orders.


More from News 12