Important COVID Update Concerning Vaccines, Testing, and Masks from Commissioner Beth Bye

Last updated February 16, 2022

As Governor Lamont has stated, “Today marks a new phase in our state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.” While COVID-19 is not over, we are entering a new phase that requires new adaptations.

The legislature has extended the public health emergency and a number of executive orders. The requirement for COVID-19 vaccination and testing by state employees and covered workers in schools and child care facilities was not extended and is no longer in effect as of February 15, 2022.

While the authority to require masks in schools and child care was extended through June 30, 2022, Governor Lamont and Public Health Commissioner Juthani have recommended that the mask requirements in schools and child care end at the end of February. The Office of Early Childhood will no longer mandate mask wearing for children and staff effective February 28, 2022. 

We will continue to issue guidance to programs based on recommendations of our State Department of Public Health’s guidance and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as we have throughout the pandemic.

Individual child care programs may choose to implement their own mask wearing policies or requirements. Our current guidance continues to recommend mask wearing, given the current levels of community infections and the data about cases of COVID-19 in child care settings. We also continue to recommend implementing other public health strategies such as social distancing, cohorting, and monitoring of children’s and staff’s health to help mitigate spread of the disease. Each week we receive updated data, and we confer with DPH to update guidance.

This guidance is based on the fact that children under 5 cannot be vaccinated, leaving them at higher risk for infection and for spreading the virus. It also considers that child care workers can now be vaccinated, boosted, and wear masks to help mitigate their workplace risks.

We are approaching a time when this mask wearing guidance will change, as long as the metrics continue in the positive direction they have moved over the past few weeks. From conversations with providers and parents, I know many of us look forward to this and to seeing children’s smiles — and them seeing teachers’ smiles.

We appreciate all of the communications we have received. We know parents, teachers, advocates, and community members all share the same goal of supporting children’s optimal development while also supporting keeping children and their communities safe and healthy. This common goal will continue to guide our work at OEC.