CONNECTICUT, USA — Connecticut's teachers have been hailed as heroes throughout this pandemic. Now the state's largest teachers union is using current and past teachers of the year to push to get educators vaccinated.
Governor Ned Lamont has already said teachers are essential workers and would be eligible in a few weeks.
Right now the essential workers who’ve been vaccinated are either healthcare workers or anyone who fits into the other phases based on their age. But the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) is saying other states have started vaccinating educators, why hasn’t Connecticut?
State data shows COVID cases in schools are mirroring the infection rate in the community — and trending down.
"A couple of weeks ago we saw the infection rates as high as 10% now they are down to about 2% or 3%, which at the beginning of the school year we thought that was high," said Don Williams, the CEA executive director.
But the infection rate within the schools is actually much lower than in the general community.
"That 605 students out of 500,000 is like .1%. It’s about the same for staff as well. We’re doing everything we can to keep you safe," said Gov. Ned Lamont.
The CEA says safety means vaccines for teachers as soon as possible. That could mean bringing the vaccines into the schools and letting school nurses, who’ve already been vaccinated administer the doses.
"Let’s get it set up so it can be done very quickly and efficiently," said Williams. "We know that can happen and it can happen on the school ground in the same way that schools have provided flu shots on an annual basis to their staff.
Schools already have access to priority COVID testing.
"We have been given access to priority testing so we’ve been able to get in the front of the line for our staff to have testing done and certainly our staff are anxious to get vaccinated," said Brooklyn Public Schools Superintendent Patricia Buell.
The CEA says upwards of 70% of educators polled say they’ll get the vaccine. The union is asking people to sign a petition and has launched a public awareness advertisement Gov. Lamont told FOX61 there’s no need to mandate it.
"That they have the option. I’m going to make it as easy as I can for people. Tight now, teachers get priority testing. They can get testing on a regular basis. Make it easier for them but no need to mandate this, I think a lot of people want to get vaccinated," said Lamont.
The state says they’ll also soon announce how they’ll spend $200 million in federal funding to support the schools.
Gov. Lamont and President Biden have floated the idea of summer school get kids who’ve fallen behind in the pandemic caught up but the unions say significant investments would need to be made to upgrade HVAC systems before that’s even a possibility.