Connecticut’s COVID-19 landscape has changed rapidly in recent weeks. Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday that he expects to extend his COVID-19 emergency declaration for at least 90 days to maintain key mandates, including a statewide requirement for wearing masks in schools and for educators and health care workers to be immunized.
President Joseph Biden last week announced a vaccine mandate for all companies with more than 100 workers. Employees who do not get a shot will face weekly testing.
Biden has also ordered that all health care workers, federal contractors and a majority of federal staff be vaccinated. Employees who refuse could face disciplinary action.
And executives from Pfizer recently said the company this fall will seek approval for use of their vaccine in children ages 6 months to 11 years old.
Here’s what you need to know.
Students and staff in K-12 schools are currently required to wear masks.
While there is no statewide mask mandate, Lamont has left it up to cities and towns whether to impose that requirement for indoor settings.
Twenty-five towns have imposed some form of mask mandate so far, according to The Hartford Courant.
Lamont’s executive orders covering schools and towns are set to expire on Sept. 30. He is seeking an extension of his emergency powers for at least 90 days, though his staff said the powers could be extended as many as 120 days, covering the period until the General Assembly convenes in February. That would allow mask mandates and other requirements to extend beyond the end of the month.
State vaccine requirements
Lamont has ordered all state workers, including educators in K-12 schools and day care employees, to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 27. For those who opt out, weekly testing is required.
The governor has also mandated that employees of nursing homes, assisted living centers, residential care homes, chronic disease hospitals, intermediate care facilities and managed residential communities be immunized against the coronavirus by Sept. 27. Home care workers are not currently included in the edict. And while medical and religious exemptions are available, there is no opt-out choice to instead get weekly testing.
An extension of Lamont’s emergency powers would keep the vaccine mandates in place beyond Sept. 30.
In late June, Connecticut’s 27 acute care hospitals agreed they would all impose vaccine requirements for their staff, including contractors who work with the hospitals. Many have set their deadlines for the last week of September.
Federal vaccine mandates
Biden announced last week that he would order all businesses with 100 or more workers to impose vaccine requirements or weekly testing. The rule would affect about 80 million employees, the New York Times reported. Employers must offer paid time off for staff to get the shot.
In an expansion of an earlier push to vaccinate the federal work force, Biden signed an executive order requiring all executive branch employees and federal contractors to be vaccinated, with no exception to test out of the mandate, the Times reported.
The president has also pledged to require COVID-19 shots for nursing home and home care workers. The mandate is a condition for those companies continuing to receive Medicare and Medicaid payments.
Most federal workers must be vaccinated by Nov. 22. Biden has not yet set a deadline for nursing home and home care employees.
Vaccines for children
The start of the school year has turned a spotlight back on the status of vaccines for young children. Currently, only children 12 and older qualify to receive a COVID-19 immunization.
Pfizer has said it plans to seek approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in early October to use its vaccine in children ages 5 to 11. On Tuesday, the company’s chief financial officer said it would apply for authorization in November to expand the shot to kids aged 6 months to 5 years, Politico reported.
The news comes as the highly contagious delta variant continues to spread, causing an increase in hospitalizations across the U.S., including among children ineligible for the vaccine. During the week that ended Aug. 22, new hospital admissions for children reached their highest levels since the U.S. started tracking pediatric cases a year ago, peaking at an average of 303 new admissions per day, CNBC reported, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The FDA gave full approval to the Pfizer vaccine in August. It is the first coronavirus shot to get full authorization.
The FDA last month signed off on third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for people with compromised immune systems. That includes residents who have received solid organ transplants or are taking medication to suppress the immune system, those who are receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood, those who have had a stem cell transplant within the past two years, and those taking high-dose steroids, among other conditions.
As of Sept. 13, the most recent data released by the state Department of Public Health, 19,490 Connecticut residents had received a third dose.
Nationally, 1,859,878 third doses have been administered, according to the CDC.
CT Mirror Reporter Kasturi Pananjady contributed to this story.