The Town of Fairfield’s mask mandate was lifted on Oct. 1. However, in an email sent to students from the University, it was announced that a mask mandate will continue while inside University buildings.
Fairfield First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchik sent an email to Fairfield residents discussing the lifting of the mask mandate.
She stated that the decision was made in consultation with the Health Director and Emergency Management Director, on Monday, Aug. 23 to instate a town wide mask mandate “as an added layer of protection against the very contagious Delta variant.”
Leading up to the lifting of the mask mandate, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention downgraded Fairfield county from high transmission to the substantial category. The town of Fairfield was also downgraded by the State from red to orange.
According to Kupchik’s email, Fairfield is 67 percent vaccinated with 71 percent having received their first dose.
However, people ages 18-24 have the lowest vaccination rate. The age group is currently only 63 percent vaccinated.
Kupchik states though that, “we expect [this] is likely higher due to data that shows many university students vaccination rates are counted in their home states and not in Fairfield.”
The Fairfield University campus community is 92.7 percent vaccinated as of Friday, Oct. 1, according to the University’s Campus Testing and Reporting website. Neighbor Sacred Heart University mandated the vaccine before students arrived on campus in the fall and now reports being over 90 percent vaccinated.
“Both National and State Public Health professionals have advised the peak of the Delta variant wave is likely behind us and our Health Director also advised me that, while conditions can always change and future increases could occur, it currently appears that this wave peaked in the Town of Fairfield about two weeks ago,” Kupchik wrote.
The decision to maintain the indoor mask mandate was made by the University health team and the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges. The University’s email continued on to cite the University’s reasoning behind this decision.
“In the densely populated living and learning environment in which we operate, masks and testing protocols have been an important factor in maintaining our vibrant student experience this semester,” the email stated.
Director of the Student Health Center Julia A. Duffy MS, APRN, BC, echoed the University’s statements on the matter of facemasks as “an important factor in preventing COVID-19 disease transmission.”
“Facemask use is helping to keep our case counts low,” Duffy said. “Maintaining the requirement to use facemasks indoors is particularly helpful in our residential college setting.”
Additionally, the email stated that following the upcoming fall break, a portion of the campus population will be tested.
Senior Shamrock Barrera said, “I feel like the University should wait to lift the mask mandate till after the fall break. A lot of students will be traveling, then they can reassess after the students have completed the repopulation testing regimen.”
Another student, Michael Riggi ‘23, expressed positive sentiments about the continuation of the mask mandate.
“With classes and other events on campus being back in full swing, it will help to limit the spread of COVID-19 and keep everyone safe,” Riggi said. “It will also help ensure that the student experience remains as robust as possible in the middle of the ongoing pandemic.”
The email assured that “[the University] will communicate any updates or modifications to our community.”
Kupchik wrote that, “Many residents have written to me regarding masks in schools. I have repeatedly shared through my newsletter that the requirement for students to wear masks in schools is a mandate from the Governor’s Executive Order and town leaders do not have the authority to change that policy.”
Businesses in Fairfield still have the ability to continue to require masks for their employees and customers.
Kupchik hopes “our residents will be respectful of the decisions of businesses that chose to require masks or not, and to also be respectful to residents in Town who choose to wear a mask, or not.”
Vice President for Student Life Karen Donoghue stated that the “[University monitors] the [COVID] situation daily and will adjust if necessary.”
“I have been very pleased with our Stag community and their willingness to follow protocols to keep our community safe,” Donoghue said.