Gov. Ned Lamont is upping the pressure on people to get vaccinated. He’s ordered teachers and state workers to get a dose or face weekly testing.
The state is estimating this mandate could impact 40,000 of its workers and more than 50,000 teachers. While most of them are already vaccinated, the governor is focused on getting that number even higher.
Amid the spread of the delta variant and high Covid case numbers in parts of the country, Lamont said it’s time for a vaccine mandate for some workers.
“We tried a lot of incentives. The vaccination rate was not going up the way it should," Lamont said.
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So now Lamont said state employees in hospitals will be required to be vaccinated.
Other state workers in the executive branch will either have to get a vaccine or have the option to test. That choice of vaccinate or test will also be mandated for K-12 teachers and staff in both public and private schools. Early childhood staff are also included.
In a statement the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition wrote in part:
“Courts have upheld employer rights to mandate vaccination. The state of Connecticut is required to negotiate with their employees’ unions over the details and impacts of the EO and the Lamont Administration has acknowledged its obligation to do so.”
“I think this is the right move. We absolutely want schools to be safe," said Kate Dias, Connecticut Education Association president.
Dias' organization is concerned about how this mandate will be implemented including who will pay for testing.
“Certainly if we're looking at additional testing that will have an increased cost and impact, we need to have a conversation about what that means, what that looks like," she said.
Fran Rabinowitz, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, expressed agreement with the mandate.
"The superintendents are in full support of the mandate. We are pleased that masks and vaccinations are mandated. We know that it will be a great deal of work in some districts with lower vaccination rates but it is worth it to keep our students, staff and families safe," she told NBC Connecticut in an email.
Also up for debate is how workers might be punished for not getting the vaccine or testing, though there are religious and medical exemptions.
Full Statement From Connecticut Education Association
Statement from CEA President Kate Dias on Mandating Vaccinations for Educators
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.