CDC downgrades COVID level for Upper Valley counties; Hartford schools again drop mask mandate

  • FILE - In this May 21, 2021 file photo, a person holds a mask while walking outside in Philadelphia. New evidence showing the delta variant is as contagious as chickenpox has prompted U.S. health officials to consider changing advice on how the nation fights the coronavirus. Recommending masks for everyone and requiring vaccines for doctors and other health care providers are among measures the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering, Friday, July 30. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File) Matt Rourke

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/2/2022 2:34:16 PM
Modified: 4/2/2022 2:33:44 PM

HARTFORD — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention downgraded the community level of COVID-19 in all four Upper Valley counties to “low” on Thursday, meaning the agency no longer recommends masks indoors for most people.

In response, Hartford schools stopped requiring masks on Friday, according to a message Superintendent Tom DeBalsi sent to families Thursday evening.

“Remember if your child has been a close contact, they will need to continue to wear a mask,” DeBalsi wrote.

The Hartford School District had resumed its mask requirement on Monday, after the CDC announced last week that Windsor County was among those with “high” levels of COVID-19, where the federal agency recommends masking indoors in public spaces. The CDC updates its transmission level data weekly on Thursdays. It uses COVID-19 case counts and related hospitalizations in calculating the levels.

Hartford schools first suspended their mask requirement for the week of March 21, following a 3-2 School Board vote on March 16, but left the door open for reinstating the mandate if conditions changed.

In following the CDC, Hartford schools are in conflict with state guidelines. State officials in the Twin States have said mask requirements are no longer necessary. At a Tuesday news conference, Vermont officials said that schools that did follow the CDC’s guidelines were “overreacting” to data and promoting “instability” in schools.

Hartford School Board Chairman Kevin “Coach” Christie said in a Friday phone interview that he supports Hartford school’s current masking policy, which aligns with the CDC. He said he supports continuing to follow the CDC because that’s what has worked to keep Hartford schools open over the past two years.

“What that says to me is our procedures that were in place by our COVID team kept our kids and our faculty and basically our community in a safe environment,” Christie said. “I’m not purporting to be an expert or anything else. If something worked, then I find it hard to not follow that process.”

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at or 603-727-3213.

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