State to mandate people to wear face coverings

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By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont is going to require customers and workers in grocery stores and other retail establishments to wear face coverings to combat the spread of the coronavirus

Lamont announced he will issue such an executive order within 48 hours during a daily briefing Wednesday on the status of the viral outbreak and the state response to the still unfolding pandemic.

He said the precaution is necessary despite encouraging coronavirus trend lines because infection rates, hospital admissions and deaths are still going up in Connecticut.

“Sometimes we think we have rounded the bend in a permanent way, but it is uneven, and that is why it is so important that we do everything we can to slow the spread, and I’m afraid masks are going to be a big part,” he said.

Lamont offered few specifics on where and when the wearing of masks or other face coverings will be mandated in public places because people are unable to maintain 6 feet of social distancing.

“We’re going to be very clear in our executive order about what that involves,” he said.

Wearing a black face mask around his neck, Lamont said face coverings will be required in grocery stores and other essential retail businesses that remain open to the public, including pharmacies, hardware stores, gun stores and liquor stores.

“If you’re in a store, wear a mask. That is the rule,” he said.

Lamont earlier ordered grocery stores and other retailers that remain open to the public to limit the number of customers to 50% of the allowable occupancy limits. It also mandated certain other social distancing directives.

Lamont implied that face coverings will be required in other public spaces.

The governor indicated that his coming executive order will also direct workers in grocery stores and other retail establishments to wear masks.

Existing state guidelines recommended employees in essential workplaces wear masks.

Lamont said the management of grocery stores and other retail establishments will be responsible for ensuring all customers and employees were covering their faces. But he also said if employers fail to provide masks to workers that employees should obtain or fashion their own face coverings

Lamont said people walking alone should use their own judgment, but they should have face coverings at the ready in case they run into other people. An earlier executive order placed a five-person limit on social gatherings and leisure time activities.

“If you’re walking down the block and you’re by yourself, that is fine, but if you get to a crowded group, wear a mask,” Lamont said.

Through mid-day Wednesday, the number of laboratory-confirmed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 in the state increased to 14,755, and nearly 50,150 tests for COVID-19 have been completed.

There were an additional 197 deaths reported since Tuesday, but Lamont said the increase included a number of previously unreported deaths from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. To date, 868 people have died after testing positive for COVID-19.

There are slightly more than 1,900 patients hospitalized for COVID-19.

Naugatuck Valley Health District reported 105 laboratory-confirmed cases of coronavirus in Naugatuck and 22 in Beacon Falls, as of Wednesday.

Chesprocott Health District reported 27 laboratory-confirmed cases in Prospect as of Wednesday, according to Prospect police.