State employee unions seek extension of vaccination deadline
State employee union leaders on Friday asked Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont to extend the latest looming deadline for workers to get vaccinated for COVID-19 or else tested, saying they have “zero confidence” the Democrat’s administration will have accurate numbers on Monday as to how many employees are not compliant with the order.
The request comes a day after the governor requested the state’s National Guard to be ready to help provide critical state services if necessary. Those workers who don’t submit proof of vaccination or weekly testing results by 11:59 p.m. Monday will be placed on unpaid leave as soon as Tuesday.
The State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition said this week it was “strongly opposed to any suggestion that employees who are sent home but subsequently come into compliance would lose their jobs.”
Max Reiss, Lamont’s spokesperson, said Friday afternoon that SEBAC had not yet made a formal request for an extension of the executive order requiring shots or testing, issued Aug. 19.
“There are no plans to further extend the deadline. We are confident that everyone who is working to come into compliance will be able to do so by Monday evening,” he said in a statement. “The week-long grace period the governor announced earlier this week was to ensure everyone had plenty of time to get vaccinated, get tested or clear up issues with their submissions.”
SEBAC leaders warned in a written statement that strict enforcement of Monday’s compliance deadline, coupled with “zero confidence in Governor Lamont’s administration to collect and present accurate numbers on noncompliance by that time” could “trigger extremely harmful consequences for workers and the people of Connecticut depending on the services they provide.” Some unionized state employees said the order will exacerbate existing staffing shortages.
“Long before the global COVID pandemic, our members and other state employees were telling elected officials, the press, and the public that short staffing in state agencies is a wasteful risk to the health and economy of our state and its residents. It should not have taken a deadly virus for Governor Lamont to recognize that,” said Steve Anderson, an environmental analyst at the Department of Agriculture and president of the union CSEA SEIU, Local 2001.
“The governor plans to disrupt services and put soldiers to work in state worksites when the real problem is short staffing combined with a poorly executed compliance system,” he said in a statement.
State employees were originally given until Nov. 27 to comply with Lamont’s order, but that date was extended this week until Oct. 4. As of Thursday, Lamont’s office said just over 8,000 of the roughly 32,000 state employees who work for executive branch agencies were considered not in compliance. Anderson said he is fully vaccinated and submitted his information “months ago,” but has been told that he’s one of those considered not in compliance.
In other coronavirus-related news in Connecticut:
FAKE COVID EXEMPTIONS
A retired Connecticut physician and surgeon voluntarily surrendered her license to practice medicine on Friday to the Department of Public Health after being accused of providing fraudulent medical exemption forms through the mail.
Dr. Sue Mcintosh had her license suspended last week by the Connecticut Medical Examining Board during an emergency hearing. A full hearing on the merits of the case was scheduled for Oct. 5.
State officials, who had received an anonymous complaint about the doctor, allege Mcintosh provided an unknown number of blank, signed forms exempting people from the COVID-19 and other vaccines, as well as mandatory mask-wearing and routine COVID testing to people who sent her a self-addressed envelope. Mcintosh, who hadn’t treated the patients, signed a letter included in the packet of bogus forms with the phrase “Let freedom ring!”
Mcintosh did not respond to a request for comment.
Christopher Boyle, a spokesperson for DPH, said agency officials are considering whether to refer the case to state and federal law enforcement entities. Meanwhile, he said the agency does not know yet if any of Mcintosh’s forms were given to any state employees to avoid vaccination and or testing requirements.