Order requires coronavirus testing for nursing home workers


By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

HARTFORD — After weighing the possibility, Gov. Ned Lamont has decided not to order nursing home workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus at this time.

Instead, Lamont issued an executive order Thursday under his emergency powers to require nursing home workers to undergo COVID-19 testing. The governor’s office said the state Department of Public Health plans to imminently mandate nursing home workers receive weekly testing.

In the same order, Lamont also authorized the state’s 169 towns and cities to impose local mask mandates as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19.

In a related development, state health officials reported that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has now placed New Haven County in the “high transmission” category of COVID-19. It is the first of the state’s eight counties to be upgraded from the “substantial transmission” category.

Lamont had told reporters on Thursday that he was contemplating ordering nursing home workers to get vaccinated, but his action Thursday was much more limited in scope.

The Democratic governor only used his emergency powers to immediately put into effect a new state law that requires nursing homes to test staff and residents for an infectious disease during an outbreak at the direction of Department of Public Health. The original effective date was Oct. 1.

The signing of the new executive order started a countdown on a 36-hour clock for a select committee of the six top leaders of the state House and Senate to reject the governor’s directives.

If allowed to stand, the new order will remain in place until Sept. 30 when the latest declarations of public health and civil preparedness declarations expire. The emergency declarations grant a governor powers to modify or suspend state laws, regulations, and requirements.

Town and city leaders now have the authority under this new emergency order to impose mask mandates that exceed the minimum requirements of the current state mandate, the governor’s office said Thursday.

At this time, Lamont has directed that unvaccinated people must wear masks in indoor places where they are unable to maintain 6 feet of physical distance from others. It remains in effect through Sept. 30.

There are also certain places where masking is required regardless of vaccination status — hospitals and other health care facilities, private and public transit, prisons, schools and child care settings.

The leeway being given local officials is the opposite approach Lamont took last year when he argued state mandates were more advisable than a patchwork of local coronavirus-related rules and requirements.

Lamont said conditions in the state outbreak are different now because of the high vaccination rate in Connecticut. Nearly 82% of adults ages 18 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, and nearly 75% are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

Lamont said vaccination rates vary among towns and cities, and municipal leaders from communities with low vaccination rates requested the flexibility to impose more stringent masking requirements, and the request made sense to him.

He continues to urge people to get vaccinated as the best protection against COVID-19. All Connecticut residents over the age of 12 are eligible to receive the vaccine.

The latest weekly report showed an additional 24,619 people received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine since last Thursday. The number of fully vaccinated individuals increased by 17,020 in the same week to 2,178,186 people.

Another 492 COVID-19 cases were reported Thursday out of 18,065 test results for a positive test rate of 2.7%.

The Department of Public Health reported another 58 breakthrough cases involving fully vaccinated persons. This brought the total to 1,171. DPH officials said this represents less than 0.6% of the fully vaccinated population. The number of fatal breakthrough cases remained at 27.

State health officials reported a net decline of eight patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 to 155 statewide, including 53 patients in New Haven County, 41 patients in Hartford County and 40 patients in Fairfield County. There have now been 37,023 hospital admissions since March 2020.

The DPH also reported three new coronavirus-related deaths in the last week. There now have been 8,269 deaths attributed to COVID-19 or complications from the disease.