HARTFORD, Conn. — During his first press conference in months regarding Connecticut's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Ned Lamont announced a vaccine mandate for state employees with testing options.
State workers like teachers and early childhood staff will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine by September 27 or provide a negative COVID-19 test weekly. Lamont said he will be issuing an executive order.
Employees who choose a testing option will not be provided a test at their place of work and must get one during their own time.
Lamont already announced there will be a mask mandate for K-12 students at least for the first month of school.
Long-term health care workers and stare employees at hospitals do not have a testing option and must get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Interestingly, unless they are extended, Lamont's emergency powers will end on September 30 canceling the executive order. The governor said during his press conference that he has not changed his stance on a statewide mask mandate, though several cities have asked him for one.
On Thursday, the city of Norwalk announced a requirement for all employees to be fully vaccinated or undergo weekly testing.
As of August 19, Connecticut has 2,215,276 fully vaccinated residents. Lamont said 74% of residents 12-years and older have been fully vaccinated, which ranks second in the country.
Though the vaccination rate is high in the state, most of the counties in Connecticut are listed as areas of "high" community transmission for COVID-19 by the CDC.
The CDC recommends any area that is listed as "substantial" or high, to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.
Senate President Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven) and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) both released statements welcoming the mandate.
"Despite our wishes to the contrary, the coronavirus continues to have a major impact on the quality of our lives here in Connecticut and across the nation," Sen. Looney said. "Because it is our duty to protect and serve the public and its health, Connecticut state government has a singular role in leading by example, so I welcome the governor's announcement today that all state employees must either be vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo weekly testing. Connecticut residents should rest assured that the people working every day on their behalf are virus-free and are committed to their health and safety."
"Every day we are learning of some new university or business or facility that is requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccination to work, attend an event or otherwise engage with the public. And every day we see news stories about some other states where masks and vaccines are not required, and where new COVID-19 infections are raging, sending children and people of all ages into hospitals and ICUs," Sen. Duff said. "From the beginning we have taken this coronavirus very seriously, and today's action by Governor Lamont is yet another example of just how seriously Connecticut takes this virus, and how we are committed to fighting it together for the good of our citizens. State employees have stepped up and will continue to step up to lead by example in this ongoing battle against a potentially deadly virus that preys on disinformation, inaction and political inertia."
House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora and Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly released their own joint statement criticizing the move:
“We fear the governor may have opened a can of worms by issuing this executive order that will surely trigger many immediately unanswerable questions from workers and entities impacted by it—from how much it will cost employees who instead choose weekly testing to the scope of disciplinary action faced by those who fail to comply with this mandate altogether. Union leaders now sit in pole position to fill in many of those blanks, and we hope the governor’s administration during its conversations with state employee union negotiators will remain firm if talks extend beyond subjects such as disciplinary options and access to testing and vaccines.”
Connecticut administered 15,865 tests and 534 came back positive, yielding a positivity rate of about 3.37%.
Hospitalizations decreased for the first time in days by four patients. There are now 344 patients being treated for COVID-19.
Since last week, there have been 23 COVID-19 related deaths. The state death toll has increased to 8,330 people.
The Connecticut Association of Educators released a statement on the mandate:
We appreciate the governor’s effort to ensure the safety of all by having as many vaccinated people in our schools as possible. In traveling to school districts and listening to local teachers, we’ve heard concerns from many who favor a vaccine mandate, and others who want the ability for monitored exceptions. Governor Lamont’s order—which says that anyone choosing not to get vaccinated must be tested each week—is a reasonable accommodation and should result in greater safety and almost everyone being vaccinated.
We want to ensure that the state assists school districts in providing the time and resources necessary to meet the vaccine mandate and testing requirements. That means a deadline that can be met by all districts, and the clinics and supplies necessary to get the job done. We cannot afford to risk staffing shortages that could cause shutdowns and disruption as the school year begins.
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