Following the recent lifting of mask mandates by Gov. Ned Lamont, both the city and school system have made masks optional unless and until circumstances require a change of course. Both City Hall and all city schools made masks optional as of Monday.
In a joint announcement by Mayor Nancy R. Rossi and Health Director Maureen B. Lillis, masks are optional in all city buildings.
“We have come a long way since March 2020. Thank you to all who have received vaccines and worn face masks during the past two years. Moving forward, it may be necessary to revert to our mitigation strategies for future coronavirus variants. But for now, given that the positivity rate in West Haven is decreasing and trending in the right direction, face masks will be optional in all city buildings, effective Tuesday, March 1. Please be courteous of those who do choose to wear face masks,” the statement said.
Schools, meanwhile, got the green light to lift mandatory masks when the Board of Education approved Superintendent of Schools Neil Cavallaro’s recommendation that masks be optional.
The decision to depart from the mandate came after Cavallaro discussed the matter informally with city union representatives and got input from parents and staff.
“There were no formal talks regarding the mandate. However, while meeting with the union on other matters, the topic came up. While I won’t speak on behalf of the membership, clearly this issue had strong proponents on each side. This was certainly true from emails that I received from parents, staff members (in the other unions), and even students,” Cavallaro said this week.
The governor’s new direction, along with new statements from the Department of Public Health helped finalize the decision.
“Ultimately, my recommendation to Board to make masks optional, was based on discussions with neighboring communities, the State Department of Education, and State and local health officials,” he said.
Cavallaro said while masks will not be mandatory, other procedures will stay in place.
“We will also keep other mitigation strategies in place, and closely monitor the number of cases we’re seeing. We will also rely on our local Health Department for guidance,” Cavallaro said.
The superintendent did note the move toward a mask-optional stratagem was part of the new attitude seen nationwide.
“I believe, based on all of the information I received that it was time to take the next step, making masks optional. The members of the Board agreed, knowing that we will reserve the right to implement, if it becomes necessary. Our administration strongly backed the ‘masks optional’ policy,” he said.
The plan is to continue working with state and city officials as the pandemic wanes with an eye toward making alterations in policy decisions should circumstances change.
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and work with all of our employees on keeping everyone in our schools safe. We will certainly work with the teachers’ union and continue to engage them on how we’re performing,” Cavallaro said.