NORWALK, Conn. — The Omicron variant is prompting an unhappy holiday gift for your stockings: Norwalk’s mask mandate has been reinstated.
As of 5 p.m. Thursday, everyone is required to wear face coverings when inside public places, regardless of vaccination status, in an executive order issued by Mayor Harry Rilling.
“This order is temporary and is being issued in response to the voluminous and rapid rise of COVID-19 cases in the community and the contagious nature of the Omicron variant that continues to rapidly spread. The mandate will be continually evaluated and reviewed in consultation with the Norwalk Health Department and will remain in effect until transmission rates decrease,” a City news release said.
Norwalk case rates have “increased five-fold in less than a month,” Rilling is quoted as saying. “Statewide hospitalizations are also at levels we haven’t seen since the beginning of the year. With indoor gatherings planned and holiday travel occurring, it is critically important for people to wear a mask when in public.”
“Over the last month, Norwalk’s average daily case rate per 100,000 population – an important indicator of community transmission – went from 8.2 per 100,000 to approximately 60 per 100,000 population. There have been more than 450 new cases in the last week,” the release said.
Gov. Ned Lamont reported 837 people hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 statewide as of 3 p.m. Thursday, an increase of 16 from the previous day.
However, the State’s weekly report states that Omicron accounts for .5% of the total number of SARS-CoV-2 sequences in Global Initiative for Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID) for Connecticut residents. Delta represents 62.3% of the 22,934 cases as of Thursday, representing data collected between March 2, 2020 and Dec. 16.
Omicron is shown as 10.2% of variants of concern being monitored as of Dec. 5 and 36.9% as of Dec. 12.
The City said:
“With the current level and continuing increase of COVID-19 cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and DPH both recommend facemasks be worn in indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status. The growing presence of the Omicron variant in Connecticut, surrounding states, country, and world emphasizes the need for everyone to continue to practice common sense prevention measures such as wearing facemasks to protect themselves and others. Facemasks work to protect you in two ways: by reducing the viral contamination in the air exhaled from an infected person and to protect an uninfected person from exposure by filtering the air that one inhales. Different types of facemasks exist, and each provide varying levels of protection. At minimum, the CDC recommends that facemasks cover one’s face and nose via a snug fit without any air gaps and, to maximize effectiveness, that the mask remain clean and dry. If a mask is made of cloth, two or more layers is better than one. Cloth, surgical, KN95, and N95 masks generally provide increasing protection in that order. Masks can be layered if one can safely breathe without difficulty.”
The state report emphasizes vaccination statistics, and so does Rilling’s.
Lamont said 635 of Connecticut’s hospitalized citizens were not fully vaccinated, or 75.9%
“According to the state, those who are unvaccinated have a 5.5 times greater risk of getting COVID-19 and a 20 times greater risk of dying from the virus compared to those fully vaccinated,” the City news release said.
“Wearing a mask in public and getting vaccinated or boosted are the most effective ways to protect yourself and your family and to slow the spread of the virus within our community,” said Norwalk Health Director Deanna D’Amore in the release.
The latest information regarding COVID-19, including testing locations and vaccine clinics, can be found at norwalkct.org/citynews.