Two days after the deadline for 32,000 executive branch employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or face weekly testing, about 60% of the workers have shown proof of inoculation, Gov. Ned Lamont said Wednesday.
Some 19,000 executive branch staff had submitted the documentation as of Tuesday. Another 3,000, or about 10%, filed paperwork demonstrating they are following the weekly testing requirement for workers who opt out of vaccination. The remaining 10,000 employees, about 30%, have yet to hand in paperwork.
The Lamont administration said it is giving those workers until Monday to submit their records or face being placed on unpaid leave as soon as Tuesday. They originally were supposed to have handed in the paperwork by Sept. 27, but were given an extension because of technical difficulties.
“The initial steps and consequences are significant. We’re very optimistic that the number of people who don’t comply in the end will be very small,” said Josh Geballe, the state’s chief operating officer.
“Everyone sees a big surge at the last minute,” he said. “Once that deadline is finally approaching, you see a lot of additional vaccinations occur.”
State officials said they still are sorting through paperwork and online filings, and the number of workers in compliance is expected to grow.
“It’s about six-to-one, people fully vaccinated versus testing,” Geballe said.
Geballe said officials were uncertain how many employees ultimately will refuse to report either vaccinations or testing, as opposed to those whose filings are being processed. Workers have the option of filing online or on paper.
“We don’t know how that will shake out. But anecdotally, as we looked at that initial list we saw yesterday of who’s currently sitting in non-compliance status, there’s a lot of people in there who are vaccinated and somehow their paperwork got caught up. Maybe they didn’t complete the form properly. We’re confident there’ll be a lot of additional people who are fully vaccinated reporting.”
In addition to the vaccination requirement for the state employees, Lamont has ordered that K-12 school staff, school bus drivers, day care employees and the nursing home workforce be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 27. Nursing home and other health care workers subject to the edict do not have the option of weekly testing, but may apply for a medical or religious exemption. Nursing homes not in compliance with the order face fines of up to $20,000 per day for violations.
Lamont did not offer a breakdown Wednesday of vaccinated employees by department, nor did he provide an update on the status of immunizations among schools or nursing home staff. School employees also have until Monday to hand in proof of vaccination or testing to the state.
Geballe cautioned that the penalties for non-compliance are substantial, with an assumption that employees placed on unpaid leave will not be eligible for unemployment benefits.
“You won’t be getting a paycheck. And there are other aspects of that that are very significant in terms of your liabilities related to your health care insurance premiums, your retirement eligibility, timing, your seniority, etc.,” he said. “So it’s a significant penalty.”
The state Senate on Tuesday gave final approval to an extension of Lamont’s emergency COVID-19 pandemic powers through Feb. 15. The move allowed the governor to extend several executive orders, including the mandate that state workers, education and day care staff and nursing home employees be vaccinated. Another requires children and staff to wear masks in schools.
Mark Pazniokas contributed to this story.