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Needleman: COVID-19 Update on Omicron Variant, Legislation to Help First Responders

By Norm Needleman, State Senator.

Omicron Variant Of COVID-19 Discovered –
But There’s No Reason to Panic

Over the weekend, the World Health Organization identified and named the Omicron variant of COVID-19 as a “Variant of Concern.” The Omicron variant was first tracked in South Africa and has since been discovered in a number of countries including Canada, Scotland, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Researchers are currently studying the variant, which has a number of potentially concerning mutations in its viral build. However, public health officials stress that there is no reason to panic at this time. It will take a few weeks to determine the exact issues the variant could cause with treatments and vaccines. There is currently no information to suggest symptoms associated with the Omicron variant are different from those from other variants.

The state Department of Public Health is monitoring for the variant and Governor Lamont indicated the variant may already be in the United States, but the state’s genomic sequencing labs will help ensure our state can follow updates regarding the variant. Public health officials recommend individuals who have not yet been vaccinated receive doses and individuals who are eligible for a booster receive it; they also recommend masking in indoor public places, practicing proper hygiene, getting tested, and staying home if you feel sick, and to take extra precautions when visiting with high-risk individuals like older relatives or immune-compromised friends.

Strengthening Health and Benefits Support for
First Responders and Frontline Workers

Every day, first responders bravely serve their towns. Many of them volunteers, they put their well-being at-risk to protect the health and safety of their fellow community members. We were especially reminded of this during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is important that we give our thanks to them, as I had the recent opportunity to with Colchester’s first responders, but we all have a shared responsibility in doing our part to support their quality of life and safety. This legislative session, I joined a bipartisan coalition of legislators to approve several pieces of legislation that will support first responders and other frontline workers.

  • Expanded eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits for post-traumatic stress injuries to include emergency medical services personnel, telecommunicators such as 911 emergency dispatchers, Department of Correction employees and, under certain COVID-19-related circumstances, health care providers
  • Greater flexibility for paramedic license applicants to complete their mental health first aid training
  • Created a task force to study the sufficiency of the current firefighters’ cancer relief program and the possibility of providing more resources such as workers’ compensation and other benefits to firefighters diagnosed with cancer because of occupational exposure to noxious fumes or poisonous gases

Federal Delegation Passes Bill to Support Fire Police Officers

Connecticut’s federal delegation led by Congressman Joe Courtney saw a bill supporting fire police officers sworn into law by President Biden. The Fire Police Fairness Act extends the Public Safety Officers Benefit Program, which already provides first responders with benefits in the event they are injured or killed on the job, to fire police, who respond to emergencies right alongside police and fire services. Let’s take a moment to consider the dangers these brave men and women face on a regular basis and be grateful they will receive support should they be injured on the job.

Holiday Celebrations in Our Area This Week

Higganum Center Tree Lighting to Be Held Friday, December 3

On Friday, December 3 at 6:00 p.m., Higganum will light its tree at Higganum Center, complete with a special visit from Santa Claus on the Town Green. After the tree lighting ceremony, light refreshments will be held at the former Haddam Elementary School, with a holiday pop-up market open from 2 to 8 p.m. Friday to welcome shoppers before and after the tree lighting ceremony. Many Higganum Center businesses will be open as well.

Old Saybrook Tree Lighting on December 4

Old Saybrook will light its first “Heroes Tree” on December 4 at 5:00 p.m. at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center at 300 Main Street. The event is dedicated to deceased, injured and active members of the armed forces of Connecticut. The tree is adorned with Gold Stars for the deceased, Silver Stars for the injured and Blue Stars for veterans. It was decorated by veterans of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War

Watch Out for Cyber-Scams This Holiday Season

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have brought the sprint of the holiday season into full swing, but when shopping for discounts and deals, be careful of these potential cyber-scams:

  • Phishing involves criminals pretending to be trustworthy organizations or people you know, hoping to trick individuals into downloading files that could lead to viruses or identify theft. Always double-check email addresses, never click hyperlinks in an email body, never reply with personal information and be wary – many phishing emails make spelling or grammatical mistakes.
  • An increasing number of individuals have created fraudulent websites, which may have similar URLs and designs to some of your favorite online stores. Always make sure you’re secure by checking website domains and spelling, and make sure you don’t chase too-good-to-be-true deals on this year’s hot toys and gifts – they very much may be too good to be true!
  • Some fraudsters will try to steal your information while you make a purchase. When buying something, make sure the URL says “https,” not just “http,” and that there’s a padlock next to the URL in your browser. Otherwise, you may find someone’s made off with your information

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