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Rilling: Best to wear a mask

State issues health alert: Fairfield County is in ‘substantial transmission’ category

An illustration from the City’s COVID-19 update issued Friday.

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (yellow)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (blue/pink) cultured in the lab. (Courtesy of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases {NIAID}.)

NORWALK, Conn. — Mayor Harry Rilling has reinstated the mask mandate for all City of Norwalk properties and asks you to consider wearing a mask in busy public places, whether or not you are vaccinated.

It’s a “proactive, not reactive” response to the ongoing pandemic and CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidance issued this week, he said.

“My number one priority has always been the health and safety of our community. We have worked so hard and sacrificed so much throughout this pandemic that I do not want us to stumble backward. If we wait too long, the decisions we make may be too late,” Rilling said in his weekly COVID-19 update.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health issued a directive for local citizens to wear masks in public spaces, whether they are vaccinated or not, just a few hours later.

The CDC on Tuesday revised its guidelines to recommend indoor mask use in areas with high transmission rates. While Norwalk is not in that category, “Several towns and surrounding counties in Connecticut are now at a substantial transmission rate, according to the CDC,” Rilling wrote. “The trends in Norwalk are also not encouraging recently, as this week, our case rate has grown to the highest level we’ve had in two months, and other COVID data metrics continue trending upwards.”

On Friday, the CDC published a study showing that the Delta COVID-19 variant “produced similar amounts of virus in vaccinated and unvaccinated people if they get infected,” according to CNN.

“Experts say that vaccination makes it less likely that you’ll catch Covid-19 in the first place — but for those who do, this data suggests they could have a similar tendency to spread it as unvaccinated folks,” CNN reports.

“New research showed that vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant carry tremendous amounts of the virus in the nose and throat,” the New York Times reports.  “…The finding contradicts what scientists had observed in vaccinated people infected with previous versions of the virus, who mostly seemed incapable of infecting others…. Vaccinated Americans may need to wear masks not just to protect themselves, but everyone in their orbit.”

The Delta variant represents 80% of COVID-19 cases in Connecticut now, “when it was only 15% of cases a few weeks ago,” Rilling’s letter stated.

The CDC report highlights an outbreak in Provincetown, Mass., where 469 COVID-19 cases were reported in July despite the state’s high vaccination rate. About 74% of the cases were people who were “fully vaccinated” and 276 of them were symptomatic. Four fully vaccinated folks were hospitalized; no deaths are reported.

The most common symptoms for “breakthrough infections” were cough, headache, sore throat, myalgia, and fever, the CDC states. “…{E}ven jurisdictions without substantial or high COVID-19 transmission might consider expanding prevention strategies, including masking in indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status, given the potential risk of infection during attendance at large public gatherings that include travelers from many areas with differing levels of transmission.”

Rilling said he’s reinstating the mask mandate “out of an abundance of caution.”

An illustration from the City’s COVID-19 update issued Friday, showing Norwalk’s infection rates as a “heat map.”

“This time last year, COVID-associated hospitalizations around the state were half of what they are today,” Rilling wrote. “We know that this virus is more transmissible indoors, and as the weather cools, more people will continue to gather inside. In 2020, we began seeing a resurgence in cases in late September. However, we are starting to see that trend happen now.”

“Norwalk’s case rate of 6.5 per 100,000 population is the highest it has been since May. Additionally, Norwalk’s test positivity rate increased for the third straight week, and now is at 2.6%,” the City’s COVID-19 update states.

“We are also looking around the region and seeing transmission increase in New York and New Jersey. Given our proximity and resident interaction with New York City, Fairfield County usually isn’t too far behind those trends, as evident with prior waves of the pandemic,” Rilling wrote.

Just before 6 p.m. Friday, Director of Business Development & Tourism Sabrina Church sent out an email blast, announcing that the Connecticut Department of Public Health moved Fairfield, Tolland and Windham counties into the “substantial transmission” category. They joined Hartford, New Haven and New London counties in the substantial transmission category, per the CDC classification system.

Anyone who lives, works or travels in these counties and is more than 2 years old must wear a mask in public indoor spaces, Deidre S. Gifford, MD, MPH, senior advisor to the Governor for Health and Human Services, and acting commissioner of DPH, is quoted as saying.

Statewide hospitalizations have increased by 46 people, the City update shows. There are 41 people hospitalized in Fairfield County, an increase of 27.

“The Delta Variant and other variants of concern have changed the trajectory of the pandemic and our understanding of this virus,” Rilling wrote. “… Cases are rising for our younger people, many of whom are not eligible yet to receive the vaccine and will be returning to school at the end of August. We’re also seeing cases rise in the 20-29 age group, people who are eligible, but many of whom are choosing not to get vaccinated.”

He said, “Our health decisions, while personal, are interconnected choices that affect our entire community. COVID-19 remains a public health crisis, and we all must do our part to prevent unnecessary deaths and suffering. We have the tools to end this pandemic, and we must use them. We must make every effort to protect the most vulnerable among us. Please talk with your friends, family, or a trusted health care provider to discuss the importance of getting vaccinated.”

An illustration from the City’s COVID-19 update issued Friday, showing vaccination opportunities.

COVID19 Update – July 30, 2021

Updated, 2 a.m.: More information.

12 comments

M Murray July 30, 2021 at 6:59 pm

Time for our creative writing story from Duff to justify another bill to infringe on individual rights. Our bodies, our choice, as Liberal Democrats have so proudly chanted for years.

James July 31, 2021 at 6:42 am

Speaking of rights, hospitals should have the right to deny eligible yet unvaccinated patients care

Skip Hagerty July 31, 2021 at 7:10 am

The statistics surrounding the Provincetown outbreak really demonstrates how important it is to get vaccinated…..or maybe not.

Bryan Meek July 31, 2021 at 3:53 pm

How many unvaccinated migrants have been relocated to Norwalk and Fairfield County during the pandemic? This should be simple data to show how humane we are while locking down law abiding citizens.

Nora King July 31, 2021 at 4:58 pm

Mandating vaccines of all Norwalk employees should be step 1. Let’s hope the Mayor doesn’t look at this as an excuse to shut down town hall. We all know It took Rilling until the bitter end to get the doors open.

Tom Jonas July 31, 2021 at 7:40 pm

So why be vaccinated at all if we still have to wear masks? Does this mean the vaccination doesn’t work? People should be leery of these politicians that are pushing all of these mandates. Everyone needs to be safe, but our free country and the rights of the people by the people seem to be fading away.

piberman August 2, 2021 at 11:05 am

Mayor Rilling’s comments are fully in line with the major Med web sites for Covid guidance and ought be widely distributed.

Steve Mann August 2, 2021 at 12:29 pm

The fact that vaccinated Americans may be mandated to wear masks while the southern border wide open to infected and contagious migrants is sheer lunacy. No one, regardless what side of the aisle they’re on, can say this bears any connection to common sense. It’s an insult to ones intelligence that is being perpetuated for political agenda.

If one has an opinion, one can clearly utilize deductive reasoning to an extent. The news channel actively reporting on the crisis on the border may not be everyone’s go-to, but because your go-to doesn’t report it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Eyes open!

Bryan Meek August 3, 2021 at 9:42 am

Free tests, free vaccines, free time off to get them……but not one cent for free n95 masks, the only kind that actually work. And we’re supposed to take these new mandates seriously?

CT-Patriot August 4, 2021 at 8:35 am

Study Cited by CDC to Push New Mask Guidance was Rejected by Peer Review and Based on Vaccine Not Used in US

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