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HomeUncategorizedNeedleman: CDC Updates Mask Guidance for Vaccinated Individuals, Legislative Update

Needleman: CDC Updates Mask Guidance for Vaccinated Individuals, Legislative Update

By Norm Needleman, State Senator.

(April 29, 2021) — Please take a couple of minutes to read an update on the accessibility of COVID-19 vaccines and CDC mask guidance for people who have been vaccinated. Additionally, a COVID-19 financial relief program for restaurants, bars, and bakeries will soon open its application.

Also, I was at the Capitol this week working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass several pieces of legislation.

COVID-19 Update

More Than 50 COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics Statewide Now Offering Walk-Ups

The state announced more than 50 COVID-19 vaccination sites are no longer requiring appointments for individuals who wish to get vaccinated. At this link, there are dozens of sites in more than two dozen communities, including Westbrook and Middletown, allowing walk-up vaccinations to help more residents get protected. The no-appointment, walk-up clinics are aimed at making vaccination as easy and as accessible as possible for the public, especially in communities where vaccination access may have been challenging in initial efforts.

CDC Updates Mask Guidance for Vaccinated Individuals

The Centers for Disease Control and Protection has updated mask guidance for vaccinated individuals, providing more information about use of face masks after someone receives both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Masks are not considered necessary for most outdoor recreation for vaccinated individuals, including walking, hiking, biking and running; gathering in small groups outdoors among both vaccinated and unvaccinated people; and outdoor dining settings. Masks are still recommended for public settings, both indoor and outdoor, with significant numbers of people; crowded gatherings, like concerts and sporting events; and visits to indoor businesses and gathering places like hair salons, shopping malls, museums, movie theaters and crowded houses of worship.

Legislative Update

Fighting Infectious Disease

On Tuesday, my colleagues and I voted to promote public health, removing the non-medical exemption for students in Connecticut schools. This action followed bipartisan approval in the state House of Representatives, and most of the Middlesex County legislative delegation voted in support of the bill.

This important issue has been discussed extensively in recent years, and we chose to support our communities, taking this step to increase childhood vaccination rates and stop the spread of measles, hepatitis, polio and other diseases. Vaccination rates in schools across the state have fallen by significant amounts in the last decade, with dozens of classrooms now below the 95 percent herd immunity rate necessary to prevent the spread of a litany of infections such as measles, mumps and hepatitis; such drop-offs have been associated with outbreaks in other states, most prominently a measles outbreak in New York that caused dozens of hospitalizations. The non-medical exemption allows parents to send unvaccinated children to school without a doctor’s approval; closing the loophole ensures immunocompromised individuals and those who are medically unable to receive vaccines can remain healthy.

Ending Co-Pay Accumulator Programs

In recent years, insurance companies and Pharmacy Benefits Managers, or PBMs, have put into place “Copay Accumulator” programs, which stop copay assistance coupons, often provided to patients by pharmaceutical companies, from counting toward a patient’s deductible. The Senate voted unanimously to stop this practice, likely saving many ratepayers thousands of dollars annually. Such coupons and rebates are meant to save patients money; copay accumulators may in fact cost them even more. Ending this practice is vital to protect public health and help struggling patients.

Reducing Permit Fees for Clubs

The Senate approved legislation that will reduce permit fees for non-profit clubs. Those clubs’ fees were inadvertently raised by an overhaul of state liquor statutes in 2019. The bill will allow for adjustments to the annual fee for prior holders of club permits and non-profit club permits, also allowing the Department of Consumer Protection to refund anyone who paid the difference. In 2019, the liquor statute overhaul cut categories of liquor permits and combined various permits – this increased the annual fee for a café permit to $2,000. The new legislation brings the fee for private clubs down to $300 and the fee for non-profit clubs to $815. The bill will help these clubs stay open and continue to support and educate their members.

Repair Legislation To Help Small Businesses

The Senate passed legislation guaranteeing fair reimbursement for retail dealers of power equipment, better specifying when they should pay warranty claims. This legislation will ensure state businesses are paid fairly for their repair work. Under the bill, when a small repair shop performs warranty work on behalf of a supplier or manufacturer, they must be pair their stated hourly rate under a deal agreed upon by both the supplier and the retail seller. The seller will in turn pay a supplier the current net price plus 18 percent for any parts needing to be fixed on top of the hourly labor rate. This will benefit many small businesses that perform quality repair work on behalf of equipment manufacturers.

Assistance for Restaurants and Live Venues

Small Business Administration Applications for Restaurant Revitalization Fund Open May 3

The Small Business Administration announced recently that the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, established under the American Rescue Plan signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11 and providing $28.6 billion in direct relief to restaurants and food establishments that have experienced economic distress and significant losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will open for registrations and applications imminently.

Registration for the program will begin tomorrow, April 30 at 9 a.m., with the application process following shortly behind on Monday, May 3 at noon. The application will remain open online to eligible establishments until all funds are exhausted. Restaurants can receive funding equal to pandemic-related revenue loss, up to $10 million per business and no more than $5 million per physical location; the funds must be used by March 11, 2023.

To participate, please register for an account at restaurants.sba.gov beginning Friday, April 30 at 9 a.m., review guidance and prepare requested documents for the application portal’s opening on May 3.

The first 21 days of program applications will see the SBA prioritize funding applications from businesses owned and controlled by women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, though all eligible applicants are encouraged to submit applications as soon as the program opens.

Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program Now Open

The Small Business Administration’s Shuttered Venue Operators Grant application portal is again open and operators of live venues, live performing arts organizations, museums, movie theaters, live venue promoters, theatrical producers and talent representatives can now apply for critical economic relief. The program includes more than $16 billion in grants to shuttered venues; eligible applicants may qualify for grants equal to 45 percent of gross earned revenue, with a single grant award’s maximum amount standing at $10 million. The program has $2 billion reserved for eligible applications with up to 50 full-time employees. For more information, and to apply for relief, please click here.

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