Gov. Ned Lamont (CTNewsJunkie File Photo)

Face masks will again be required in Connecticut classrooms when schools begin reconvening at the end this month, Gov. Ned Lamont said at a Tuesday press conference.

“K through 12 students, I want you to wear the mask,” Lamont said. “You’re going to wear the mask at least for the first month. We get everybody back to school … safely, make sure that you can learn safely, make sure that your teachers can teach safely and make sure you can beat your rivals on the playing field safely.”

The governor made the long-expected announcement at a New Britain event with youth sports officials from the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference aimed at encouraging student athletes to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

As he explained the renewed mask mandate, Lamont pointed to an ongoing spike in Connecticut’s infection rate. As of Tuesday the infection rate jumped to 4.2% and the seven-day average rose to 3.4%. The number of patients hospitalized with the virus also grew by 36 to 321. 

Still, Lamont said reinstituting the school mask policy, which has been opposed by an outspoken group of parents but requested by school administrators, was a tough decision. 

“[W]e were doing so well for so long and we had so many more of our people vaccinated and I know the masks can be a pain to some people, but given where we are, given what the spread is right now, given the success the masks had last year … I want to make sure everyone can be in that classroom safely,” the governor said. “I hope it’s not something we’ve got to do for more than a month or two but time will tell, COVID has its own timetable.”

Some parents are not happy about the decision.

“The majority of parents in the state of Connecticut are demanding mask choice for their children immediately,” Jonathan Johnson, founder of Unmask Our Kids CT, said. “Gov. Lamont’s latest dictate places Connecticut in a minority number of states that are forcing masks onto children in schools. Parents have had enough – and there will be continued organizing, disobedience, and student walkouts once school starts across the state in response to this continued abuse of our children.”

As of now, all of the governor’s emergency orders are set to expire at the end of September unless extended or codified by the legislature. 

Lamont and other officials hope the growing number of vaccinated students will help to suppress COVID outbreaks in classrooms and on youth sports fields. Acting Public Health Commissioner Dr. Diedre Gifford said Tuesday that 46% of 12 to 15 year-old residents had been fully vaccinated. The rate is higher among 16 and 17 year-olds, 63% of whom had completed the required doses of the vaccine. 

Despite pressure from some local leaders, the governor said he did not anticipate issuing a statewide indoor masking order. He said local orders where it was deemed appropriate seemed to be working. 

“None of our neighboring states are doing this,” Lamont said of a statewide mask mandate.