WEST HARTFORD — Universal masking will be required indoors throughout town if the community transmission level crosses into the state’s “red zone,” officials announced Friday.
“Public safety is always our top priority, and universal masking is one of the most effective methods for preventing disease transmission,” Mayor Shari Cantor said. “If rates continue on their current trajectory, universal indoor masking will need to become mandatory.”
Masks are already required in all town buildings.
As of Friday, the town was still in the orange zone, the second-highest level. The town has an average of 13.6 daily cases per 100,000 people over a two-week period, the state’s data shows. The town had 58 cases reported the first week and 62 the second week, the data shows.
The threshold to reach the red zone is an average daily case rate of 15 per 100,000.
While West Hartford hadn’t met it as of Friday afternoon, several of its neighbors had, including Bloomfield, Hartford, Whethersfield and New Britain.
They were among the 39 towns classified within the red zone on Thursday.
Cantor commended West Hartford residents and businesses for voluntarily taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID.
“West Hartford has one of the highest vaccination rates in the state, and many residents are already masking up,” Cantor said. “Unfortunately, because the delta variant is so contagious, voluntary compliance may not be enough.”
Gov. Ned Lamont issued an executive order on Aug. 5, giving municipalities the option to issue local mask mandates.
Within West Hartford, that means the authority falls to the town manager as the town’s chief executive officer.
Town Manager Matt Hart said the decision to issue the mask mandate if the town enters the red zone was made after speaking with public health and safety officials.
“I have asked our attorneys to prepare an order now so that we can be prepared to issue it imminently,” Hart said on Friday. “At the current infection rate, I anticipate that I will need to issue the executive order as soon as next week. Regardless of when it is issued, however, everyone should be practicing universal indoor masking to help reduce community spread of COVID-19.”
Cantor encouraged state health officials to reconsider issuing a state mandate rather than leaving it a municipal option as more communities throughout the state enter the “red zone” level of community spread.
“West Hartford is prepared to act when it becomes necessary, and we expect it will be soon,” Cantor said. “But this virus does not stop at municipal boundaries, and disease mitigation strategies like mandatory universal indoor masking will be more effective if there is consistency throughout our state and our region. We all want to keep our communities safe while keeping schools, towns, and businesses open.”