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Mask Mandate Lifted in West Hartford Center, Library Appointments No Longer Required

Signs advising people to wear face masks will be removed May 19 in West Hartford Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

As of Wednesday, May 19, masks will no longer be required in West Hartford Center or in most town buildings.

By Ronni Newton

The signs requiring the wearing of face coverings on the sidewalks of West Hartford Center will be removed as of Wednesday, May 19, also the date that Gov. Ned Lamont had set for the lifting of most remaining COVID-19 business restrictions.

While many outdoor spaces did not require the wearing of face coverings even at the height of the pandemic, the mask mandate was put into place in West Hartford Center in the summer of 2020, because the narrow sidewalks and proximately of outdoor dining spaces to pedestrians made it difficult to maintain the recommended 6 feet of distance from others. The town’s fire and police departments, and representatives from the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District, handed out masks as well as buttons throughout the summer and fall, encouraging compliance, and in September were authorized to issue infractions to those who did not comply.

Lamont, following new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), last Thursday announced that not only would the state be lifting business restrictions as of May 19, but also as of that date anyone fully vaccinated would no longer be required to wear a mask indoors in most cases.

Earlier in the month, the CDC had recommended that it would no longer be necessary to wear masks outdoors in most cases, but Town Manager Matt Hart said he wanted to wait for further guidance from the state prior to lifting the restrictions in the Center..

On Tuesday, the governor issued Executive Order 12, repealing the previous executive order related to the wearing of masks or other face coverings (Executive Order 7NNN), allowing those who are fully vaccinated (defined as 14 days after receiving the second Pfizer or Moderna shot, or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine) to go mask-free even indoors or when social distancing is not possible. Masks are still required for all who do not have a medical or other reason preventing them from wearing them, in certain places including on public transit, in hospitals, nursing homes, and correctional facilities.

Businesses have the authority to set their own rules regarding face coverings.

Josh Geballe, the state’s chief operating officer, said at a press briefing Monday that it’s like the “no shoes, no shirt, no service” adage. Patrons have the ability to go elsewhere if they don’t like the rules.

Trader Joes’s which has a location in West Hartford’s Corbin’s Corner, announced almost immediately after the CDC’s new guidance that they would not require vaccinated customers to wear masks.

Several West Hartford fitness facilities have also issued updated guidance in response. Edge Fitness, a large gym in Corbin’s Corner, said in a press release Tuesday that beginning May 19: “Face masks are optional for fully vaccinated members and guests.” Edge will no longer limit capacity in its group fitness classes and locker rooms, saunas, and the kids’ club are also fully open.

“We’re happy to announce that in accordance with the CDC and state guidelines, individuals who are fully vaccinated (two weeks after your final Covid-19 dose) are no longer required to wear a mask while inside the studio,” BodyRoc, a fitness studio on New Park Avenue in West Hartford, said in an email Tuesday. The studio is “judgment free,” the email noted, and those who prefer to continue masking even after being fully vaccinated should feel free to continue to do so.

Town of West Hartford Public Relations Specialist Renée McCue said Tuesday that those who are vaccinated will no longer need to wear masks in town buildings such as Town Hall – but the libraries remain the exception.

West Hartford Library. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

 

West Hartford’s three public library branches had been open on an appointment-only basis, but that restriction was eliminated as of May 17.

West Hartford Public Schools will require the wearing of masks for staff and students through at least the end of the school year. “Much of the library programming is geared toward school-aged children,” McCue said, many of whom are not even eligible for vaccination yet.

Beginning June 7, library hours will be extended, with the main library closing at 6 p.m. rather than 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. The main branch will close at 5 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday.

Hours will be extended at the Faxon and Bishops Corner branches as well.

Curbside pick-up will continue to be offered at all three locations.

Indoor programs will not return at West Hartford Libraries until the fall, but activities for children as well as some other programming will be held outdoors.

More information can be found on the West Hartford Libraries website.

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