One of the largest cities in Connecticut has once again implemented an indoor mask mandate in light of rising COVID-19 concerns amid the holidays.
For the third time since the start of the pandemic, the city of Stamford began requiring people in indoor public spaces to cover their faces on Tuesday night. It comes not long after the state of New York also reinstated its indoor mask policy, and nearby Newark, New Jersey, also did the same.
The mayor of Stamford says the decision wasn't easy but coronavirus cases in the city have quadrupled since Thanksgiving.
The city's hospitalization rate is also rising, but it's not at a critical level --- mainly because the majority of residents (97%) who are eligible for the vaccine have gotten the shots.
"Those that are getting COVID that are vaccinated tend to have mild disease, but at the same time, we still have to protect our vulnerable population and those that are unvaccinated and our children," said Dr. Asha Shah, Stamford Health’s director of infectious diseases.
Mayor Caroline Simmons said at her news conference that enforcement of the mandate will start with just warnings, but it could lead to $100 fines for people and businesses who refuse to comply.
At a busy pizzeria in downtown Stamford, restaurant owner Anthony Nargi says it's just business as usual for him since the pandemic began. "All my staff, we all wear masks. We never stopped," he said.
Other customers say it's been nearly two years and they have gotten used to wearing their masks. But they might not have to keep doing it for long, city officials say.
The mask mandate is supposed to be temporary. The goal? It's to slow down the spread of the virus and avoid overwhelming hospitals and healthcare workers who have worked relentlessly since the start of 2020.
"We're all are tired of wearing masks but I'm just asking the public to just hang in there a little longer and to take this seriously," Simmons said Tuesday at her news conference.
However, some business owners like the owner of Chez Vous Bistro say the rules will hurt him financially.
"This was the end of August, I believe. The mayor did the masks again. We felt it right away. Business went half," he said.