House Speaker Matt Ritter: Masks will be optional. MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG

For the first time since the Connecticut Capitol closed due to COVID-19 in March 2020, masks will be optional when the House of Representatives meets in session Wednesday to vote on judicial nominations.

When the Senate will follow suit was unclear Monday. Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said the Senate’s protocols would be discussed later this week.

But the Senate will require masks in the chamber on Wednesday, he said.

House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said not only will masks be optional in the chamber, but lobbyists and the public will have access to the 2nd floor of the Capitol, where House sessions are held. The third floor, where the Senate is located, remains closed.

“We’ve opened the second floor of the Capitol. We’re mask optional. I don’t know what they decided to do,” Ritter said of the Senate, his upstairs neighbor on the 3rd floor.

Ritter said the House is following the advice issued Friday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Except in areas where hospitals are strained by high rates of COVID, residents can go indoors without masks.

Only 188 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Connecticut on Monday, less than 10% of the patient load at the peak of the first surge in 2020 and the most recent one in January.

The Capitol had opened its first floor to the public but kept the upper floors off limits. With Ritter’s edict, the first and second floors now are open.

The House spectator’s gallery remains closed. Access is on the 4th floor.

Public hearings still are being conducted via Zoom video conferencing. House and Senate leaders said committee meetings soon could be conducted in person, most likely with a remote option.

Gov. Ned Lamont, whose office is on the 2nd floor, went maskless Monday at a public event in New Haven, where the city still advises masks indoors.

Control over the Capitol rests with the General Assembly, not the executive branch. Governors are tenants in the building.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.