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Rosenthal Issues Newtown Mask Mandate After COVID Case Reports Escalate



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Utilizing Newtown's CODE Red system Thursday evening, and noting the decision was based on case data, First Selectman Dan Rosenthal issued an indoor masking mandate in the hopes of curtailing the spread of COVID-19 and its highly aggressive delta variant. Newtown has logged nearly 90 new cases over the past three weeks, according to Health District Director Donna Culbert.

Culbert said she is hoping that, along with increased use of face coverings in public buildings, residents will continue to be vigilant about masking up. She is also urging avoiding contact with others, especially if someone is showing any symptoms associated with the novel coronavirus.

"We kind of abandoned social distancing and minimizing exposure to crowds after state restrictions went away earlier this summer and our numbers of people who were vaccinated increased significantly," Culbert told The Newtown Bee August 26.

The local health official said she is concerned that continued widespread contacts in the coming couple of weeks will increase the virus' spreading to others.

"Over the next couple of weeks we're going to see end of summer traveling, Labor Day weekend parties, and families socializing around the beginning of school," Culbert said. "So all I can hope for is these gatherings and parties will not be too big, and that they will occur primarily outdoors. And if you're symptomatic, please don't mix with others."

She confirmed that Newtown is in the state's "Red Zone" for new COVID-19 cases with 16.9 cases per 100,000 as of Thursday. There have been 89 new cases since August 6, 26 the week of August 9; 31 the week of August 16; and 32 this week.

To date, Newtown has logged 2,271 COVID-19 cases that resulted in 67 deaths, however, the last related death occurred months ago.

CODE Red Message

The text of Rosenthal's CODE Red message is as follows:

"Before I begin, my prayers and I am sure all of our prayers are with the families of our American heroes who were tragically killed in Afghanistan today.

"Over the last 18 months I have regularly sought the advice of our Health Director, Donna Culbert, as we worked to guide our community through the pandemic. We are also fortunate to have Dr John Murphy, CEO of Nuvance, as a resident and his help and guidance has been invaluable to me as well.

"Based on their advice, which is based on case data and what are unfortunately increased admissions from the region to Danbury Hospital, I have decided to issue a local indoor mask mandate regardless of vaccination status for all public spaces, including businesses, effective Monday morning pursuant to Governor Lamont’s executive order," the notification continued. "This is not a decision that I take lightly, however it is the one that makes the most sense given current circumstances.

"I think when issuing mandates leaders should also be giving guidance as to what dynamics would need to be present in order to lift them especially because I believe we will be navigating this for a while," Rosenthal related. "In this case, barring something unforeseen, I would expect we would lift it after consecutive weeks of case decline where cases fall below CDC guidance. To put this in perspective, prior to last week's DPH report Newtown was below CDC guidance of 10 cases per 100,000 population for suggesting masks indoors. As of today’s report we are at 16.9.

"In order for that to happen it does come down to us, as wearing masks indoors will do little to change our circumstances if people are not conscientious of other activities, such as travel and large gatherings. Our local businesses have managed through a nightmare and despite that they have still supported our community, as always. Please continue to support them and despite none of us being happy about this, I made this decision and I own it, not them.

"I hope to be in a position to share better news soon," the first selectman concluded. "Thank you and take care."

Litchfield County Upgrade

Rosenthal's decision also came following the Centers for Disease Control placing Litchfield County in the “High Transmission” category of COVID-19. Litchfield is the sixth county in the state to be upgraded to the High Transmission category. New Haven, Hartford, New London, Fairfield and Middlesex Counties also are listed as High Transmission.

The High Transmission category — which is the most severe as defined by the CDC — is 100 or more cases per 100,000 people or a positivity rate of 10 percent or higher over the past seven days.

According to a late day report from the Associated Press Thursday, the US is projected to see nearly 100,000 more COVID-19 deaths between now and December 1, according to the nation’s most closely watched forecasting model. But health experts say that toll could be cut in half if nearly everyone wore a mask in public spaces.

In other words, what the coronavirus has in store this fall depends on human behavior.

“Behavior is really going to determine if, when and how sustainably the current wave subsides,” said Lauren Ancel Meyers, director of the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium. “We cannot stop delta in its tracks, but we can change our behavior overnight.”

That means doubling down again on masks, limiting social gatherings, staying home when sick and getting vaccinated. “Those things are within our control,” Meyers said.

Deaths are running at over 1,100 a day on average, turning the clock back to mid-March. One influential model, from the University of Washington, projects an additional 98,000 Americans will die by the start of December, for an overall death toll of nearly 730,000.

Editor John Voket can be reached at john@thebee.com.

Comments are open. Be civil.
  1. mbordash says:

    Please rescind this mask mandate. Some practical advice for you to consider:

    – Virus travels in droplets from your breathing, coughing, talking. Masks do catch droplets. Sticking your face in your elbow if you’re about to sneeze or cough is much better. For basic talking, if you stay 6-feet apart, the mask is negligibly helpful.

    – For the citizen concerned about catching this virus, much like water, air looks for the path of least resistance. When you wear a mask, the folds around the sides of your face create vents of high pressure, and effectively sucks in air directly to your nostrils. The human nostrils are a perfect form created by evolution to creates a balanced path of least resistance from the air immediately around the nostril to your lungs.

    – Masks that we wear around town are great for blocking large particles, like dust and provide a seriously false sense of security. The only mask system that effectively works for viral and bacterial contaminants is MOPP gear. If you are concerned with catching this virus, then a plastic face shield is better than a fabric mask as your nostrils will work more effectively to pull in air via low pressure pathways.

    – Viruses remain on earth forever, virus variants always form as the mission for a virus is to live and spread. This is why the flu vaccine is only minimally effective each year as variations are constantly being tested via nature. As the years progress, this COVID strain will trade and has traded acute damage to the host vs contagion. A virus doesn’t want to kill off the population as it won’t have anywhere to live. You can see that in the newly detected variant studies via NIH. Contagion increases while severity decreases.

    – With respect to the current state of vaccines, they were created to reduce impact to hospitalizations, not to reduce death or contagion itself. While the vaccine itself is safe for most people, it is largely useless for those that are healthy. So if you decide not to take it because you are healthy (via doctor’s advice), that is OK. I am further confident in this position after reading several recent NIGH studies. In one such recent study, the deaths that occurred during the trial were split between vax and unvaxxed.

    – With humans, you trade risk vs reward. The healthy among us gain nothing from the vaccine aside and have risk of side affects, as the vaccine doesn’t prevent contagion and does not prevent death. It only reduces the symptoms and thus is really only effective for those that have a compromised immune system, have diabetes, or have age-related concerns.

    In short, it is OK to not wear a mask, it is OK to wear a proper protective mask, it is OK to not take the vaccine and OK to take it if you think it might help your situation. It is not OK to force either on your fellow human and decisions regarding health are to remain between doctor and patient.

    The news media was very heavy on the death-rate early on especially from Western Europe (Italy). My supposition here is that this narrative was baked into the general psyche and as deaths go down, the vaccine is unneeded since death is scary, and reducing hospital stays isn’t.

    While I’m fully vaxxed for most infections, I weigh each jab with gravitas as I am at high risk for anaphylaxis. Given that I am 100% healthy (I had COVID and still have antibodies), the vaccine does nothing to prevent contagion or death (my fellow citizen is not affected by my decision), and only brings me risk of a epi-pen shot and hospital visit, I see no need to take this COVID vaccine. Because of this, and because it is none of my business why you won’t take the vaxx, I will never force it on anyone and I will fight with ever ounce of my being and defend against any government or individual that forces, bullies or coerces a fellow free citizen into taking a foreign element into their body without private doctor/patient approval or via religious exception.

    My position will change should evidence of a new virus/bacteria that affects healthy people in a numerically high manner reveal itself over time.

  2. ktcnc says:

    Lots of high level numbers floating around here. Would like to know more detail like, of those admitted to the hospital, what percentage have been vaccinated? Of the vaccinated, what percentage are seriously ill? For the longest time we have been told that once you are vaccinated, the mask can come off. So here we are, 70% (if what I hear is correct) vaccination rate in this area but yet folks are now being told to put them back on? Just a few of the questions I hear people asking.

  3. qstorm says:

    The ‘Average Daily Rate’ for the past 2 weeks of 16.9 from the state is being used to make this call.. The CDC uses a weekly positivity rate. Can these numbers be compares? From the article we had 32 new cases last week with 31 new cases the week before. (26 the week prior to that). How did we jump from under 10 to over 16 when the new cases are fairly static? Cmon Man.

  4. karolfreeman says:

    Great, we have our own personal Gavin Newsome right here in Newtown. King Rosenthal, i have a few basic, fundamental questions for you. Why should the “free” men, women and children of this town be subject to the edicts of your whims (even with all that “expert” opinion you access)? From where do you derive the authority to mandate anything? We are thinking humans who can do our own research and decide for ourselves whether we want to wear a mask, get a shot, stay home or anything else. This overreach of power needs to end, and just because the mayors and governors around you are doing this, it does not mean that it is lawful or right. You were not elected to protect us from a virus or our own personal decisions. You can keep your paternalistic tendencies at home and own that.
    Secondly, why should we continue to live in fear and act irrationally over a virus that has a 99+% recovery rate and that mainly affects the elderly, the obese and those with compromised immune systems. Who cares if everyone gets a virus that has little chance of making them severely ill? Those in the aforementioned categories can choose for themselves how to best protect themselves. (Psss…they’re big boys and girls and don’t need your orders to do so). So i thnk we’d all be better off if you took to Florida’s example instead of California’s.
    Lastly (for the sake of time…as i could go on), at what point will you be willing to lay down your self-bestowed, dictatorial powers? What if sars-covid-2 is here to stay like the seasonal flu? Does that grant you and every other petty tyrant unlimited right to impose your will on the citizens of this town indefinetly? i can only speak for myself but no thank you. i would like to retain my individual rights and make my own personal decisions for me and my family without your continued interference. Can you even imagine a senerio where you and your ilk will no longer exert unlimited authority? What’s the standard? How high is that bar? i for one do not want to find out. i’m sure you’ve done what you have been doing with the best of intentions, but we know exactly where that kind of road pavement leads us. It’s time to humbly accept a self-imposed retreat from tyrannical rule, and give the citizens who entrusted you with proper governance back their freedom of choice. We can handle it. (Oh, and if not, just look at your mentor in CA for a peek at your future).

  5. qstorm says:

    As of 9/16 Newtown is no longer in the dreaded RED zone. And just barely in the YELLOW zone. How long before this ‘mandate’ gets lifted?

    1. ntb.shannon.hicks says:

      As previously reported, First Selectman Dan Rosenthal reserves the right to rescind the mandate prior to the next Legislative Council meeting. The Council is scheduled to revisit the mandate on October 6.
      Read more here: https://www.newtownbee.com/09032021/legislative-council-approves-mask-mandate-after-two-hour-debate/

      1. qstorm says:

        So why is Rosenthal quiet on this? With a word (or sentence or CODE RED voice mail) he could rescind this mandate.

  6. qstorm says:

    As of 9/23 Newtown is now in the Tan Zone 5-9 cases per 100000. Can we remove our masks now????

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