By Norm Needleman, State Senator.
(December 23, 2020) — No matter what holiday you celebrate this year, I hope you are able to safely enjoy it with loved ones. Some of us will be seeing friends and family over Zoom feeds this year, while others will have small gatherings. This has been a challenging year, but as with every year, the holidays provide us with an opportunity to reflect on what we’ve accomplished this year and the loved ones that will be with us, even if they are far away, for the future. I wish you all a very happy holiday and a peaceful end to this difficult year, with the hopes that 2021 brings better tidings to us all.
Even with the holiday season, my office is doing everything we can to assist the constituents of the 33rd district. I receive a plethora of messages from those living in my district, and around the state, with concerns, questions and ideas for Connecticut’s future. I want to hear from you. Please fill out my short survey. If you’ve sent me an email or have phoned my office, please know we are working as diligently as we can to address your needs and concerns.
Before I give an update on COVID-19 and other recent developments, I want to share Verizon announced it will support the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s Santa tracking program yet again this year, sharing iPhones preloaded with a virtual hotline to volunteers for Christmas Eve. Children who want to hear about Santa’s travels across the world this year on Christmas Eve can call 1-877-446-6723, or 1-877-Hi-NORAD, and ask about Santa’s trips – where he is, whether he has to wear a mask and whether Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer is guiding the sleigh. The hotline will be in place beginning at 6:00 a.m. EST tomorrow, December 24.
Access Health CT Open Enrollment Extended
Access Health CT has extended the 2021 annual open enrollment period until January 15, 2021 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. This will give Connecticut residents more time to get health insurance coverage. If new customers sign up for health insurance plans through Access Health CT from now until January 15, 2021, their coverage will start February 1, 2021. In addition, Access Health CT customers who enrolled in a plan for 2021 now have the option to keep it or find a new plan. To find an in-person enrollment location, you can click here. You can also visit AccessHealthCT.com to learn more.
New Laws Taking Effect On New Year’s Day
Every year, new laws go into effect on January 1, and this year is no exception. Among the many new changes happening in 2021 are:
- The third year of phasing in an income tax exemption for pension and annuity income will see those under income limits of $75,000 for single individuals and $100,000 for married people filing jointly gaining extra financial relief. As part of a seven-year phasing cycle, 2021 will see 42 percent pensions marked exempt from taxation. This is part of a seven-year phasing process that will see all income become exempt by 2025.
- Insulin and insulin supplies will now cost Connecticut residents no more than $25 per month, protecting them from price-gouging and high increases in costs to medication. Pharmacists can also provide those in need with emergency supplies of insulin and supplies once per year.
- State police officers will be required to receive behavioral health assessments at least every five years.
New Vaccination Guidelines Indicate Who Will Get Doses Soon
Connecticut plans to prioritize first responders, teachers, child care workers, food and agricultural employees, correctional staff, public transit workers, postal workers, grocery store staff, manufacturing workers and all residents over the age of 75 in its next “phase” of COVID-19 vaccination distribution. With the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States, thousands of doses will arrive in the state weekly, allowing for more workers to gain access; Governor Ned Lamont said he hopes the entire “phase” will be able to receive their first doses of the vaccine before February.
Employers are expected to upload lists of employees matching criteria to the state in coming weeks. Those workers will then be able to schedule online appointments to receive a dose, most likely in a local pharmacy. All people in the first “phase” of vaccinations are expected to receive both of their shots, as both vaccinations require two doses, by the end of January; that group included medical workers and residents and workers of long-term care centers. Future phases, extending into the late spring, will include people over the age of 65, other essential workers and people with high-risk medical conditions younger than 65.
New Guidelines for CT’s COVID-19 Travel Advisory
New guidelines are now in effect for Connecticut’s COVID-19 travel advisory. The travel advisory will now apply to all travelers, both national and international, entering Connecticut from any location with the exception of New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. The advisory will also require all affected travelers to complete the Connecticut Travel Health Form and self-quarantine for 10 days or until a negative COVID test result is provided. This is a change from the 14-day quarantine previously suggested. For more information, you can click here.
New COVID-19 Recovery Facility Opens in Waterford
The State Department of Public Health has opened its fifth COVID-19 recovery facility at Greentree Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Waterford. These recovery facilities are designed to take admissions of individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 but no longer need hospital-level care. They were put in place to free up hospital beds in the state and allow nursing facilities to cohort residents in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak. The state now has 337 beds available in these five facilities, with additional ones located in Meriden, Wallingford, East Hartford and Torrington.