Martin M. Looney

Senate President Pro Tempore

Martin M. Looney

An Advocate for Us

September 28, 2021

Senate to Vote to Continue COVID Protections and Vaccine Distribution

HARTFORD – Connecticut Senate Democrats will vote today to continue the COVID-19 protections and vaccine distribution that have effectively reduced the spread of the deadly and highly infectious virus by renewing the declaration of an emergency of public health and civil preparedness first put in place in March 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This comes as the state, during the summer, saw a sharp increase in COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations and deaths due to the surge of the Delta variant of the disease; however, with the protections allowed by the order remaining in place, Connecticut saw a fraction of the serious public health consequences causing widespread illness and fatalities in other states. With the outlook of the pandemic continuing to shift – with booster vaccine doses recently approved and potential imminent approval of vaccine shots for young children – keeping the declaration in place will provide Connecticut with increased flexibility to react.

Members of the legislature will retain the ability to veto executive orders through a new bipartisan law recently approved during the 2021 legislative session.

Among the most important standards remaining in place among remaining executive orders include the continued provision of non-congregant housing for populations at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 such as homeless individuals and victims of domestic violence. Out-of-network vaccine reimbursements, temporary nurse aide programs, modifications to the summary process for evictions and the continuing wearing of masks in high-population settings including schools and group housing will also remain in place.

This vote will also assist vaccination efforts. By extending the public health emergency order, staff of nursing homes and long-term care facilities will be required to be vaccinated, protecting the elderly and vulnerable, while state employees and contractors visiting state hospitals and state buildings will be required to either be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing, to ensure critical state services can continue without disruption and reduce the odds of infection, disease and health consequences in these settings.

School employees will also be required to be vaccinated or tested to protect children not currently eligible for vaccination; the Delta variant has resulted in increased infections among children, and while they are experiencing them at a lower rate, higher volumes of ill children increase the volumes of children experiencing serious health consequences.

Additionally, two new executive orders will create a vaccination requirement for health care facilities and health care workers caring for high-risk individuals and reduce the cost of extended unemployment insurance benefits for individual employers.

Without the continuation of the executive order, the state would not receive $8 million in federal reimbursements for funds spent providing non-congregate housing or $3.5 million in reimbursements for FEMA emergency food assistance.

While critics have claimed Connecticut is the only state among neighbors retaining emergency declarations, others still have such declarations in place. Massachusetts, as of late May, is under a public health emergency giving the Commissioner of Public Health power to allow measures on testing, vaccination and protecting high-risk residents; New Jersey ended its public health emergency but remains under a state of emergency, with the Governor and Health Commissioner given the authority to issue orders on vaccines, testing and implementing Centers for Disease Control regulations; Rhode Island issued a disaster declaration in late August running through September; and Vermont issued an order under its special duty statute where state agencies can address pandemic-related issues.

Despite seeing high fatality numbers early in the pandemic, Connecticut recently saw its per-capita death rate ranking among the United States fall sharply. Previously ranked sixth in deaths per capita, the state has now fallen to 13th, with Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia and South Dakota – the majority of those states having low vaccination rates and restrictions on public health protections – ranking above it due to sharp increases in deaths caused as the Delta variant of COVID-19 spread nationally.