Government Schools

Decision on Masks in Schools Won’t Come for Weeks, West Hartford Superintendent Urges Vaccinations for Eligible Students

West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor speaks at a press conference Thursday at Charter Oak International Academy. Visible in background are (from left): state Sen. Saud Anwar, state Rep. Kate Farrar, state rep. Jillian Gilchrest, state Rep. Tammy Exum, OEC Commissioner Beth Bye, Board of Education Vice Chair Lorna Thomas-Farquharson, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, Gov. Ned Lamont, Acting Department of Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker, West Hartford Superintendent of Schools Tom Moore, and Bridge Family Center Executive Director Margaret Hann. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford Superintendent of Schools Tom Moore sent a reminder to families Thursday recommending that parents have their children vaccinated soon to be ready for the upcoming school year.

By Ronni Newton

Gov. Ned Lamont has been fielding questions for weeks about whether or not masks will be mandated in the schools come fall, and at a press conference in West Hartford Thursday he was asked by reporters when the decision will be forthcoming.

“I think it’s going to take another two or three weeks,” Lamont said, before he will make any announcements.

In the meantime, he urged residents to “make hay while the sun shines,” enjoy the summer, and travel while it’s relatively safe. “Right now Connecticut’s in really good shape after a really, really tough year. Most of our country’s really in good shape, but not all of it.”

Other states are not faring so well, and Lamont said he recently spoke to Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson who said he regretted not pushing for vaccinations sooner.

Lamont said as recently as a few weeks ago the public had not heard of the Delta variant, but now it has become a predominant strain in the state as well as nationally.

Three weeks ago the infection positivity rate in Connecticut was half a percent, and now it’s close to 2%, Lamont said Thursday morning. When the COVID-19 update was released Thursday afternoon, the positivity rate for the past day was 2.22%, based on 295 positives from 13,270 tests. Hospitalizations ticked up another eight, to 66.

Gov. Ned Lamont speaks at a press conference at Charter Oak International Academy in West Hartford on Thursday. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Hospitalizations are the No. 1 metric, Lamont told reporters, “as a template for how serious the nature of these infections can be.”

Vaccinations are the answer, he said, and 80% of the adults in the state are now vaccinated..

“I don’t have to answer all these questions about if my 5-year-old has to wear masks on Mondays through Fridays if everyone gets vaccinated,” Lamont said. The message is to get the young people vaccinated at the same rate as the older population.

“What we have now is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said Thursday. She said there will be a big push with school districts to get vaccinated for the fall.

West Hartford Superintendent of Schools Tom Moore sent out a reminder to families via email on Thursday.

“Looking at the calendar and mapping back from the first day of school, if you are the parent or guardian of a child 12 and older, in order to have your child fully vaccinated against COVID for the start of school, you have about a week left to get them their first shot,” Moore wrote. “With the ready availability of vaccines (Pfizer only for those under 18), getting a shot is now as easy as walking into Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, and many other locations that are offering the vaccine without an appointment. You can also contact your healthcare provider, or go to clinics set up at many hospital sites.”

He urged anyone with medical questions to contact their child’s pediatrician.

Moore said he will follow up with detailed information about the fall opening of West Hartford Public Schools in the coming weeks, including providing guidance about masks – which will follow the release of guidance from the governor and Department of Public Health.

“While mask rules are still unknown, what we do know is that those who are vaccinated and asymptomatic will not miss school, practices, games or performances for a contact that last year would have put them into a two week quarantine,” Moore said in his letter. “Vaccination will not only keep your child safe from serious illness, it will keep them in school, learning with their peers, and enjoying what I hope will be a great year.”

Data released by the state Thursday afternoon indicated that 76% of West Hartford residents of all ages have been vaccinated.

Statewide, 51% of 12- to 15-year-olds have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and in West Hartford that figure is much higher – 72.85%, while 65.38% are fully vaccinated as of data released Thursday.


Moore said the rate is even higher for teens ages 16 to 18, although the state does not provide a public breakdown of that age group. Among those 16 to 44, 84.78% have received at least one dose while 78.46% are fully vaccinated.

Just over 80% of West Hartford residents 45-64 are now fully vaccinated, and nearly 97% of those 65 and older are fully vaccinated.

“While these numbers are great, and exceed Connecticut averages, I hope that they will be even higher by September,” Moore said.

The governor also said Thursday there are no plans to impose travel restrictions at this time.

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