The City of Hartford rescinded its indoor public masking requirement Tuesday morning, reflecting an ongoing decline in COVID-19 numbers across Connecticut as the omicron surge continues to recede.
Mayor Luke Bronin announced he would not extend the citywide mandate in a press release.
“I told our community that this would be a time-limited measure because of the extraordinary surge, and as we begin to move past the omicron wave, I think it’s important to demonstrate that we take that commitment seriously,” Bronin said.
Hartford enacted its own masking requirement in early January as state COVID metrics shot up following holiday gatherings amid spread of the highly-infectious omicron variant and Gov. Ned Lamont resisted calls from some to revive a statewide mandate.
But Connecticut’s COVID statistics have dropped off significantly in recent weeks. On Jan. 3, when Bronin reinstated Hartford’s masking requirement, the statewide infection rate stood at over 21.5% and 1,452 people were hospitalized with the virus. Hospitalizations climbed as high as 1,939 in mid January but had declined to 1,051 on Monday. The infection rate, meanwhile, had dropped to 7.3%.
During a Monday morning call with reporters, Dr. Ulysses Wu, Hartford HealthCare’s chief epidemiologist, said that aside from certain absolutes — like receiving a booster shot to protect their vaccine immunity — residents should learn to live with the virus and make mitigation decisions on a case by case basis.
“Living with COVID should not be binary at this point because there are going to be in betweens,” Wu said. “Masking, for example, has become gray. Do we need to mask in every situation? No. I’ve been saying for a few months now that outdoor masking, probably not as important as indoor masking.”
In his press release this week, Bronin reminded residents that business owners were still permitted to require patrons to wear masks and he continued to strongly recommend that Hartford residents do so while indoors around strangers.
“Most important, I cannot stress enough that the best way to fight this virus is to make sure that you and your loved ones are vaccinated and up-to-date with your boosters,” Bronin said.