By Marc Fitch, Yankee Institute. Reprinted by permission from Yankee Institute
(Sept, 22, 2021) — In a letter to legislative leaders calling for a special session next week to extend his emergency pandemic powers until February 15, Gov. Ned Lamont cited the Delta variant, an uptick in Connecticut cases and the ongoing need for vaccination, testing and mask mandates as reasons the emergency declaration should be continued for a sixth time.
Lamont said continuation of his executive orders are necessary to continue enforcing vaccination and testing mandates for state employees, teachers and school staff and nursing home staff.
“Several of the few remaining executive orders that remain in effect are critical to the State’s ability to continue our vaccination campaign and other critical safety measures, especially masking requirements in schools and other critical safety measures,” Lamont wrote.
Lamont also cited the need for continuing his emergency powers in order to continue “temporary changes to the summary process for eviction,” and procuring “non-congregate housing” for those experiencing homelessness or domestic violence survivors.
Lamont says that continuing the emergency declaration will ensure Connecticut receives additional federal FEMA funding for those efforts and additional funding for emergency food assistance.
“Despite speculation to the contrary, the federal government has made it clear that we would not receive the roughly $2 million per quarter in FEMA reimbursement for such efforts with the executive order the emergency declarations that enabled it,” Lamont wrote.
Lawmakers debated whether or not Connecticut has to continue its emergency declarations to receive that FEMA funding during the last legislative vote to extend the governor’s powers in July.
Lamont included two new executive orders he intends to sign if his emergency powers are extended, including an expanded vaccine mandate for health care facilities and health care workers “who provide care to high risk individuals,” and reducing the “cost of extended unemployment insurance benefits for individual employers.”
Meanwhile, the legislative Conservative Caucus held an informational public hearing on workers affected by employer vaccine mandates.
A number of individuals – particularly bus drivers, teachers and nurses — expressed concern over potentially losing their jobs for refusing the COVID vaccine when Lamont’s executive order requiring vaccines and testing for school and health care workers takes effect next week. Many called for an end to the public health emergency declaration.
A rally was held at the Capitol over the weekend on Saturday, September 18 with hundreds of people protesting the mask and vaccine mandates.
The General Assembly is set for a special session next week to vote on whether or not to continue the emergency declaration with majority Democrats likely to pass the measure with opposition from Republicans.
According to the latest statistics provided by Lamont’s office, Connecticut’s daily positivity rate was 2.15 percent, with 269 individuals hospitalized with the virus; 74.3 percent of those hospitalized are not vaccinated.
Connecticut has one of the lowest COVID infection rates in the country and one of the highest vaccination rates. According to the New York Times, 68 percent of Connecticut residents are fully vaccinated and 75 percent have had their first dose.