New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)

Official: 14 state workers suspended over vaccine mandate

In addition to 28 fired

- By Nicholas Rondinone

A clearer picture of the impact of the COVID vaccine mandate for executive branch state employees was provided Thursday when officials said 14 people — in addition to the 28 who were fired last week — have been placed on unpaid leave for failing to comply with the order.

While state officials had previously offered a definitive number of terminatio­ns — 28 employees still within their six-month probation period — it was not immediatel­y clear how many people had been suspended when the action started Tuesday.

On Thursday, Chief Operating Officer Josh Geballe’s office said 14 employees had been suspended, but that number was subject to change. It appears from this number the state had closed the gap on those who

were not in compliance, which had numbered in the thousands ahead of deadlines.

The suspension­s come as the state continues to see slightly metrics that are slightly higher than pandemic lows. The state reported on Thursday a positivity rate of 2.23 percent. Hospitaliz­ations dropped a net of one patient for a total of

244. An additional 40 deaths were reported in the past week for a pandemic total of 8,707.

While Gov. Ned Lamont issued the mandate for state employees on Aug. 19, giving them 39 days to get vaccinated. However, the initial deadline for action against non-compliant employees was pushed back so state officials could better gauge the amount of people affected.

Ahead of the deadlines, Lamont had warned the heads of state agencies to prepare for staff shortages and asked the Connecticu­t National Guard to be prepared to help if needed to fill core roles.

However, the terminatio­ns and suspension­s in the past week have amounted to a small fraction of the 31,000 employees working for the state’s executive branch.

Those people suspended can remain on unpaid leave with their job held for 45 days, according to an agreement between the governor’s office and the state employees’ unions.

The agreement also clarified that along with free testing sites, the state’s health plan will cover the cost of testing and employees can use sick time, comp time and other paid time off to get tested.

While the mandate from Lamont does not impact all state employees, those working in higher education and in the state’s judicial branch have faced similar vaccine mandates.

Lamont has not issued overly broad vaccine mandates, opting instead for those impacting certain public and private employees. Along with employees of the state’s executive branch, Lamont has required vaccinatio­ns for workers at long-term health care facilities, along with teachers and staff at schools.

In recent weeks, the state’s vaccinatio­n rate has continued to rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 80 percent of all eligible residents are fully vaccinated.

The mandates were first issued amid a spike in cases brought on by the highly transmissi­ble delta variant. But the metrics, including new cases and hospitaliz­ations, plateaued and remain above pandemic lows seen in June.

Weekly new doses of the vaccine have also increased, in part because of the roll out of Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots for eligible individual­s.

On Thursday, a Food and Drug Administra­tion panel endorsed the use of Moderna vaccine boosters in a dose half the size of the original two shots. Regulators are not bound to the recommenda­tion, but have followed it in the past. It’s unclear when the booster may get final approval.

Like with the PfizerBioN­Tech vaccine, the booster is recommende­d for people age 65 and older.

 ?? Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticu­t Media ?? Gov. Ned Lamont
Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticu­t Media Gov. Ned Lamont

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States