Lamont: ‘Scores’ of CT workers suspended over COVID vaccine mandate

Photo of Peter Yankowski
Gov. Ned Lamont speaks at Workshop CT, an educational facility in Bethel, on Oct. 6.

Gov. Ned Lamont speaks at Workshop CT, an educational facility in Bethel, on Oct. 6.

Peter Yankowski / Hearst Connecticut Media

Gov. Ned Lamont said Wednesday “scores” of Connecticut employees in executive branch agencies have been suspended without pay after failing to show they had either been vaccinated or would submit to weekly COVID testing.

The exact number of employees who have been suspended or fired over the order remained unclear. The governor had warned that state employees had until Tuesday to comply with the mandate.

Lamont said Tuesday that 28 probationary employees with less than six months on the job had been terminated as of last Friday.

“I don’t have any current number from what I told you yesterday except we’re continuing to put people out on unpaid leave if they won’t get vaccinated or test,” Lamont said Wednesday at an unrelated event in Hartford. He estimated the number in the “scores.”

On Wednesday, the state reported 240 new COVID cases statewide, with a daily positivity rate of 1.52 percent. Hospitalizations for the virus were up by a net of 11 patients, bringing the statewide total to 245.

The governor’s COVID vaccination mandate, announced in August, also includes school staff and workers at child care facilities. But Lamont indicated Wednesday he would not extend that mandate to eligible schoolchildren because none of the federally authorized vaccines have received the Food and Drug Administration’s full approval for children.

The FDA has approved Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for adults, but administration of the vaccine for children as young as 12 is still being done under an emergency use authorization. The agency is expected to meet to discuss expanding the use of the vaccine to children as young as 5 by the end of October.

“Certainly not at this point, I mean it’s only emergency use, so I think that’s a long way off,” the governor said Wednesday.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced this month his state will require students to be vaccinated in order to attend school once the vaccines meet full FDA approval for their age groups. Many colleges and universities already required students to have been vaccinated for the fall term.

Federal officials on Wednesday also released data allowing the public to see the percentage of vaccinated staff at individual nursing homes. During the early wave of the pandemic, deaths among nursing home patients and other assisted living facilities due to COVID-19 comprised a staggering amount of the state’s deaths. Staff and patients at nursing homes were among the very first recipients of vaccines in the state late last year.

Social Services Commissioner Dr. Deidre Gifford applauded the move in a statement Wednesday. “As our federal partners note, this will help people make informed decisions when choosing a nursing home for themselves or a loved one,” she said.

Lamont ordered staff at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to be vaccinated by Sept. 7, a deadline that was later extended to Sept. 27 after a health care workers union asked for more time to prevent staffing shortages.