With COVID restrictions lifted, Ridgefield rushes to adapt

RIDGEFIELD — As the state eyes a return to pre-pandemic life, business owners and organization leaders in town are questioning what to do when it comes to asking visitors to mask up.

On the same day Connecticut returned to the least restrictive environment it has seen since March 2020, a subcommittee of Ridgefield’s Long-Term Recovery Committee met virtually to discuss how to approach this new normal. The group comprises more than 20 arts, culture, tourism and recreation entities in town.

“It seems like everyone, because of the nature of their business, has different concerns and different measures in place,” said Jennifer DiLaura, who chairs the Ridgefield Arts Council. “There was a big discussion about who’s doing what and how do we do this?”

As of Wednesday, vaccinated people are no longer be required to wear masks indoors, however, businesses, along with local and state offices and events, may still require people to wear masks. Certain settings like health care facilities, schools and public transportation will also require masks. For those gathering outdoors, masks are not required for anyone

“I certainly expect a degree of hesitancy relative to people going out, especially (from) those who may have a compromised immune system,” said First Selectman Rudy Marconi, “but for those who are concerned, wear your masks (and) do what makes you comfortable — that’s what we’re doing at Town Hall.”

The Ridgefield Library, the Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center and Books on the Common are just a few local entities that will continue to require visitors to wear masks for the time being.

“It’s great news that our health officials feel we can take this step safely … but we’re keeping this as our guidance for right now,” Library Director Brenda McKinley said. “We can’t implement things at the snap of a finger.”

Keeler Tavern’s Executive Director Hildi Grob said since children under the age of 12 are still ineligible for the vaccine, the mask requirement would ensure those visitors feel welcomed and safe. The museum will continue to offer hand sanitizer, disinfect indoor spaces and provide optimal air ventilation.

“Basically we’re asking people to be kind and considerate and please wear a mask even if they’ve been vaccinated,” she said. “This should not be too much of an imposition since we should all be interested in keeping good public health habits.”

Some subcommittee members were concerned that businesses and organizations electing to maintain the mask mandate would receive pushback from patrons in light of the state’s guidance. Their aim is to remind residents to practice “kindness, understanding and compassion” during the “transitional period,” DiLaura said.

“There’s already been confusion as this all happened very fast,” added Ridgefield’s Economic & Community Development Commission Secretary Glori Norwitt. “We're asking everyone to be respectful and carry a mask with you just in case and give (establishments) time to adapt.”

Marconi said he looks forward to business conditions improving in Ridgefield as things return to normal.

Nicholas Rondinone contributed to this story.