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Connecticut mandates vaccines for nursing home workers

August 7, 2021 GMT
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont speaks before signing a ceremonial bill on gun safety at Hartford Communities That Care, Tuesday, July 27, 2021 in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont speaks before signing a ceremonial bill on gun safety at Hartford Communities That Care, Tuesday, July 27, 2021 in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont speaks before signing a ceremonial bill on gun safety at Hartford Communities That Care, Tuesday, July 27, 2021 in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Connecticut on Friday became the latest state to mandate that workers in nursing homes be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Gov. Ned Lamont directed an executive order that requires all employees of long-term care facilities to receive at least the first dose of a vaccine by Sept. 7. The actual order was signed by Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz at Lamont’s request.

Connecticut joins at least five other states that have issued similar mandates. California nursing home workers must get their shots by Sept. 30. Workers in Massachusetts have until Oct. 10. Illinois and Maryland have mandated shots for all state workers in group settings and New Jersey has a vaccine requirement for all health care settings, including nursing homes.

“Now that vaccines are widely available and scientifically proven to be safe and the most effective method for preventing hospitalization and death, it would be absolutely irresponsible for anyone working in a long-term care facility to not receive this protection that could prevent widespread infection among those who are most vulnerable from dying of this communicable disease, some of whom for medical reasons cannot be vaccinated themselves,” Lamont said in a Friday night release.

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Lamont had already signed an order that will enable Dr. Deidre Gifford, the acting public health commissioner, to require all unvaccinated nursing home staff to be tested weekly for COVID-19.

Public health officials plan to visit every nursing home to check on the number of employees who’ve been vaccinated. Federal data show at least 16 facilities in the state have staff vaccination rates below 50%. According to Lamont’s release, more than half of all nursing homes in Connecticut have a staff vaccination rate lower than 75%.

On average, 72% of staff and 90% of residents are vaccinated statewide, according to the latest report. Meanwhile, state statistics from July 21 to Aug. 3 indicate there were 48 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among nursing home staff. Among residents, there were 51 cases and three deaths.

Heather Aaron, deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Health has said that verifying the vaccination rates of staff members will become part of the state’s inspection process.

Aaron said state public health officials plan to stress to employees that nursing home residents are vulnerable and that many died during the earlier days of the pandemic because the virus was brought into facilities by staff.

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NEW HAVEN MASK MANDATE?

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker on Friday said it’s likely his city will impose a citywide indoor mask mandate, a day after Lamont signed an order giving municipal leaders the ability to require both vaccinated and unvaccinated people to wear face coverings inside public spaces in their communities.

Elicker, a Democrat, said the local order could take effect on Monday.

“We’ve had the mask mandate within municipal buildings ever since basically COVID started and we’ve continued even during the recent months when the cases were low. But we will be expanding that to places where people are likely to potentially expose other people to COVID,” he said during an event in Hartford with the governor.

While Elicker said he appreciates the governor providing municipalities more tools to address the pandemic, East Hartford Mayor Marcia Leclerc, a Democrat, questioned why Lamont, also a Democrat, did not issue a statewide mask mandate as cases of the delta variant continue to rise.

“COVID doesn’t know boundaries. It doesn’t know municipal boundaries. And I’m concerned that we don’t have an overarching plan in place for the state,” she said during a meeting of the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. “I have people that live in my community that travel down to the other end of the state for work. So I’m baffled by the inability that there isn’t a state mandate.”

Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases of COVID-19 has increased by 316, an increase of 171.6%, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins.

Lamont reiterated Friday that he’s giving municipal leaders the flexibility to issue their own mask mandates because the vaccination rates are varied across the state, with some communities at a 99% rate and others less than 50%.

“If we have to do something more broadly. Time will tell,” he said. “We’re not there yet.”

Some members of the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, a group that studies issues between state and local governments, said Friday there is some confusion about who is responsible for requiring masks in schools. While Lamont has an executive order still in place requiring indoor mask-wearing for unvaccinated people, that’s set to expire on Sept. 30.

“We’re not certain as board members whether or not we’re making the call or somebody else is,” said Lon Seidman, chairman of the Essex Board of Education. “A lot of schools are opening up in two or three weeks and we still don’t know what we can or can’t do.”