Connecticut will not follow New York’s lead and impose an indoor mask mandate on businesses without vaccine requirements, Gov. Ned Lamont said Friday morning. The governor said a soon-to-be launched vaccine passport platform should make new mandates unnecessary.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced her state’s new mandate during a press conference earlier Friday. The new policy requires masks at businesses that do not have a vaccination mandate. Hochul said the requirement will begin Monday and remain in place at least until Jan. 15.
“We’re entering a time of uncertainty,” Hochul said. “We could either plateau here or our cases could escalate beyond control. We are starting upwards, my friends. I’ve been watching this closely. We’re heading upward in a direction that I find is no longer sustainable.”
Although Connecticut still requires masks indoors in public for people who are not vaccinated, Lamont was asked Friday if he would extend the state mandate to businesses where vaccine mandates were not present. The governor said he preferred to leave the decision up to individual towns and businesses, but hoped a new “digital health card,” otherwise known as a vaccine passport, would make the decision easier.
“[W]hat I want to do is get that digital health card, make it available to every single business, restaurant and store. Let them make the right decision in terms of allowing people into their facility, letting them have the information. If the person is unvaccinated, they gotta wear a mask. I don’t think we need more mandates than that,” Lamont said.
Connecticut has been developing the system along with other states including Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Baring and technical problems, Lamont said the voluntary app could launch within the next 10 days.
During the press conference, the governor conceded his preference for the term “digital health card” over the more widely-used phrase “vaccine passport” was semantic, but said he wanted to underscore that the new platform was an elective tool rather than a requirement.
“‘Passport’ everybody says, ‘Oh my god another mandate, you’re gonna make me do this’ and I’m trying to avoid that, trying to say ‘Here’s one more tool businesses can use to keep their customers and employees safe,’” Lamont said.
Like New York, Connecticut’s COVID rates have been elevated for weeks. On Friday, Lamont said the daily infection rate was around 6.1%, a slight dip from Thursday when it was 6.48%. The governor said he hoped the virus was beginning to stabilize after a period of fluctuation. On Tuesday it shot up to 8.33%.
While infection rates can vary wildly by several factors including the number of people seeking tests, Lamont said he was closely watching a more serious indicator: the number of people hospitalized with the virus. And that metric has jumped sharply. Two weeks ago, there were 300 COVID patients in Connecticut hospital beds. On Thursday there were 576. More than 77% of hospitalized COVID patients were not fully vaccinated, according to state data.