Gov. Ned Lamont has directed state agency heads to prepare for staffing shortages related to the Covid-19 vaccine mandates and is calling on the Connecticut National Guard to plan to step in if necessary to fill the gaps.
State employees have until 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 4 to provide proof of vaccination or compliance with weekly testing requirements. Those who do not will be placed on leave, as soon as Oct. 5 but no later than Oct. 11.
The state reports that as of Thursday afternoon more than 20,000 employees (63%) have submitted proof that they are fully vaccinated, 4,000 (12%) have opted for weekly testing, and 8,000 (25%) are still in non-compliant status. Administration officials said Thursday night they believe many employees just haven't gotten the appropriate paperwork in yet and that they expect to see the number of non-compliant employees drop further.
The governor has directed Major General Francis Evon to plan for an activation of the Connecticut National Guard to fill in at agencies that provide critical health and safety services, if necessary. That activation would last until enough employees are compliant or new employees can be hired.
The State Employees Bargaining Coalition (SEBAC) said it has not agreed to having non-compliant workers put on unpaid leave.
"We remain strongly opposed to any suggestion that employees who are sent home but subsequently come into compliance would lose their jobs, and we will fight to defend employees who do so," SEBAC officials wrote in a statement.
A National Guard spokesman said in a statement Thursday that they are monitoring the situation and prepared to respond as necessary.
“Connecticut National Guard members have stepped up to support this state throughout this pandemic in capacities ranging from skilled nursing facility inspection to distributing food to those in need to delivering PPE to health districts and first responders. Now, in this phase of the pandemic, we potentially may need to support critical activities. Typically, this is to protect life/limb/eyesight and property, but the last two years have taught us to be flexible and that we may be called upon to support the state in new ways," the statement reads in part.
“I continue to remain optimistic that our employees will submit their testing and vaccination information quickly,” Lamont said in a statement.
The governor issued an executive order that requires all state employees and staff of all childcare facilities and PreK-12 schools statewide receive at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. People who are exempt must be tested on a weekly basis.
"We have provided most state employees with the option to get tested weekly instead of getting vaccinated, providing more flexibility than our neighboring states. We have also provided our employees with a compliance grace period. There is no reason all our employees should not be in compliance. I continue to count on state employees to lead by example and to respect their co-workers and the public by complying with this executive order, which is the law," he added.
The state Department of Transportation said in a statement that the agency, along with other state agencies, has a contingency plan in place in the case some state employees are non-compliant.
They added that they are optimistic that more employees will continue to submit the information required this week.
State hospital and long-term care employees do not have the option of testing in lieu of vaccination.
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