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State Vaccine Mandate Will Reveal How Many Are Vaccinated

Cloe Poisson

The Department of Correction can say that at least 45% of its staff is vaccinated, but that’s as much as it can say.

That figure doesn’t cover everyone because the DOC hasn’t asked employees to self-report, said Andrius Banevicius, a public information officer at the department. When the department held vaccine clinics in late spring, it counted the number of employees who got the shot there: roughly 3,000.

“That number does not reflect anybody who would have gone to their private physician or walk-in clinic somewhere in the community,” Banevicius said, “because we aren’t asking for proof of vaccination.”

The department doesn’t know exactly how many of its roughly 6,000 employees are or aren’t vaccinated. Not yet, at least.

By Monday, Sept. 27, all state employees, K-12 school staff and child care workers must be vaccinated or tested for coronavirus thanks to an executive order by Gov. Ned Lamont. The executive order also gave them the option to undergo weekly testing if they prefer not to get the shot. State hospital and long-term care employees can’t opt out of the vaccine in favor of testing.

But the state might not pick up the tab on the cost of tests for state employees. “We do not anticipate repetitive COVID screening being covered,” Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer, said during a news conference Thursday. The state is negotiating with unions on if and how long it will cover the cost of testing.

“There’s a very simple solution to this, just get vaccinated,” Geballe said.

“The vast majority of the adults in this state ... have gotten vaccinated,” he said. “It’s by far the most effective way to keep yourself and your family safe, and it gets rid of any concerns about inconvenience or money related to getting tested.”

Those who don’t comply will face consequences. Lamont’s administration is still negotiating with unions on that, too. Lying about vaccination status could result in a misdemeanor charge.

Relatedly, Geballe says the state is seeing 15,000 people a week come out for their first shot. That’s higher than it has been, and he thinks that’s due in part to the state vaccine mandate.

Meanwhile, the DOC union members say there is a shortage of employees at facilities. Sherine Bailey, correction officer and member of AFSCME Local 391, says facilities can’t afford to lose any more employees.

“We can be compliant but if we don’t have the manpower to be compliant, it’s very difficult,” Bailey said.

The Lamont administration says it will deliver statistics on the vaccine status of state employees within the week.

Copyright 2021 Connecticut Public Radio

Ali Oshinskie is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Ali reports on the Naugatuck River Valley with an emphasis on work, economic development, and opportunity in the Valley. Her work has appeared on NPR, Marketplace, and The Hartford Courant.