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COVID cases are up since Thanksgiving. Lamont says no to mask mandate

A nurse tests a student for COVID-19 at Brandeis Elementary School in Louisville, Ky.
Jon Cherry
Getty Images
A nurse tests a student for COVID-19.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont said there is no “need at this point” for an indoor mask mandate despite an increase of COVID-19, the flu and RSV, a viral respiratory illness that is dangerous to children under age two.

There are over 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 compared to last week. The seven-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is over 10%.

“Right now, we have OK capacity in our hospitals, and most of the hospital beds are taken up [with the] flu,’’ Lamont told reporters on Tuesday.

About 620 Connecticut residents are hospitalized with COVID-19, which is about 30 more patients over the last week, according to federal hospital data reporting. Connecticut hospitals are at about 78% bed capacity with 8% of the beds occupied by coronavirus patients.

Still, health professionals recommend people mask up ahead of the holidays and winter gatherings. New York City’s health department on Friday urged New Yorkers to mask up indoors and in crowded spaces, particularly if they’re at risk for severe illness or know someone who is.

“Masking is good, common sense,” said Dr. Ulysses Wu, the chief epidemiologist at Hartford Healthcare. “If you remember from the previous respiratory seasons, we basically had a non-existent respiratory season with the exception of COVID. And so masking works.”

Dr. Wu and the governor agree that vaccinating against COVID-19 and the flu can help everyone prevent new cases and reduce the severity of infection. “The reality is that there's been a lot of vaccine hesitancy for influenza, whether it be due to COVID, or whether it just be due to people just tired of respiratory illnesses, and then with the masking that has gone away, it has really contributed to a robust season,” he said.

He also said choosing to wear a mask indoors can also protect those who are immunocompromised, seniors and children from catching a cold or RSV, which may lead to hospitalization.

“Vaccinate, mask, and then if you're sick, try not to get anybody else sick — all common sense,” Dr. Wu said. “We don't need to be binary, where we ignore it or where we live in our home and we don't go outside. There is a very nice in between and most of it is that gray zone in between. It really depends on certain circumstances.”

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.