Connecticut gives state workers extra week to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or get tested
State workers will have an extra week to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or get tested and after that, Gov. Ned Lamont says the consequences will be swift and severe.
Originally, the workers were supposed to report their vaccination status by Monday - but so far, almost one-third of them have not complied. According to the governor's office, 59% of state workers are fully vaccinated and 9% are opting for weekend testing. Another 32% has not responded yet.
"If you won't get vaccinated, if you won't get tested, then there will be an unpaid leave," says Lamont.
If put on unpaid leave, employees could lose their health insurance and they won't qualify for unemployment due to intentionally violating an executive order. Workers could also risk retirement contributions.
"Look, there will be some people who say, 'Hell no.' And I'm sorry, but that means you're not safe. You're not safe for the people around you and you're not safe for the people you're treating. And they cannot come in to work," says Lamont.
If those workers don't comply, they'll be placed on unpaid leave as soon as next Tuesday. However, Connecticut officials say there are no plans to fire state workers.
"That's a discussion for another day, I think. As the governor mentioned, the initial steps and consequences are significant, and we're very optimistic that the number of people who don't comply, in the end, will be very small," says Connecticut COO Josh Geballe.
For those opting for testing, the state will pay for it for at least a month. The rules also apply to teachers and nursing home workers.
On Monday, school bus drivers threatened a walkout but most stayed on the job. State leaders say they're preparing for some holdouts next week.
"We are anticipating that there will be some, and our agencies are making contingency plans and planning for those risks accordingly," says Geballe.
Connecticut's new health director says vaccines and testing are the keys to avoiding a winter spike.
"The virus isn't listening to my opinion. The virus has its own mind," says Connecticut Public Health Commissioner Dr. Manisha Juthani.
The actual number of vaccinated workers is likely higher due to some running into paperwork issues.