Legislative branch employees will need to comply with Gov. Ned Lamont’s order requiring vaccination against the COVID-19 virus or weekly testing by Nov. 1, the Legislative Management Committee announced Friday.
Jim Tamburro, executive director of the committee, made the announcement in an email to employees Friday afternoon.
“In conjunction with Governor Lamont’s executive order … we are mandating that all legislative employees be fully vaccinated against COVID-19; have received their first vaccine dose and be scheduled for their second dose; or have applied for a medical or religious exemption from COVID-19 vaccination by Monday, November 1,” Tamburro wrote.
As is the case for most executive branch workers, legislative employees can opt to test for infection rather than be vaccinated without needing a medical or religious exemption.
The requirement does not apply to the elected members of the legislature, who are not considered traditional employees and the four caucuses may enforce varying requirements. Elected House Democrats, for instance, are expected to be vaccinated or show recent test results, a spokesman said Friday.
The announcement for employees was expected as the legislature signalled it planned to follow suit soon after Lamont announced the requirement for the roughly 30,000 executive branch employees back in August. The administration has since reported that about 98% of executive branch workers were in compliance either by vaccination or agreement to test on a weekly basis.
As of Friday, the administration had taken disciplinary action against 45 workers for noncompliance including 28 probationary employees who had been fired and 17 employees who were placed on unpaid leave. According to an agreement with the unions representing state employees, workers can remain on unpaid leave for up to 45 dates before they risk losing their jobs.
The judicial branch has also implemented the vaccine or testing order and reported high levels of compliance. As of Friday, virtually all of the branch’s roughly 3,200 workers were either vaccinated or complying with the weekly testing regiment, a spokesperson said.
The State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition has pushed for the administration to extend the option for weekly testing to employees of certain state hospitals and longterm care facilities where the order requires employee vaccination. The unions worry that strict enforcement of the vaccine order will worsen existing staff shortages.
“SEBAC unions will continue to shine a light on how these shortages across multiple state agencies are damaging public services and putting further strain on front-line workers who have been there for Connecticut’s citizens throughout the pandemic,” the union coalition said in a Thursday post on its website.
The Public Health Department released data Friday showing that 89% of Connecticut’s roughly 61,000 long term care facility workers subject to the vaccine requirement were fully vaccinated against the virus as of last week. Another 7% reported being partially vaccinated.
In a press release, Dr. Manisha Juthani, state public health commissioner, commended the vaccination rates.
“The residents of our long-term care facilities are some of the most vulnerable citizens of our state,” Juthani said. “We applaud the tens of thousands of vaccinated long-term care workers for prioritizing the health and safety of the patients and residents under their care as well as the health and safety of themselves, their families, and their co-workers.”
Next week the agency will begin issuing civil penalties of up to $20,000 a day to some of the 167 long term care facilities that had not met state reporting requirements as of Oct. 8, according to the press release.