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Inmate Exposure To COVID-19 Dominates DOC Confirmation Hearing

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Angel Quiros was appointed by Gov. Ned Lamont late last year to lead the Department of Correction. Now, as he's in the process of being confirmed, lawmakers are asking about DOC's handling of the pandemic.

On Thursday, a legislative committee took up the permanent appointment for acting Connecticut Department of Correction Commissioner Angel Quiros.

The Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee moved his nomination forward, but not before Quiros faced questions from lawmakers for nearly 90 minutes, including one about the department’s policy regarding staff who opt out of a COVID-19 vaccination.

Quiros conceded during the hearing that most infections -- at least in prisons -- are passed from staff to inmates.

“They cannot be forced to take the vaccination,” Quiros said.

“We’re educating [them] -- sending out educational material. We want to get to a higher percentage.”

Despite that effort, Quiros still expects about 40% of the staff to refuse the shots.

State Sen. Bob Duff, who initially asked Quiros about the COVID-19 vaccination policy, then wanted to know how Quiros planned to address staff immunizations if herd immunity becomes out of reach.

“We need to get up to the herd immunity number of somewhere between 70 and 85 percent. I think it’s going to be very important as the vaccines roll out that we do our best, especially with the Department of Correction, to make sure that we are keeping everybody safe.”

Quiros said he’d honor the request.

Prior to being questioned, Quiros addressed the prison vaccination rollout in his opening statement. He said it’ll begin next week.

“Starting Monday at seven correctional facilities, our staff in group 1b will be receiving their vaccination,” Quiros said. “In addition ... individuals under my custody that are 75 and older -- there’s 27 individuals -- we will be vaccinating them starting on Monday.”

If confirmed, Quiros said he’d work to close two more correctional facilities, but he said mitigating the spread of the virus remains his first priority. Nineteen people incarcerated in Connecticut prisons have died from COVID-19.

The House is expected to vote on Quiros’ confirmation before the end of March, according to a spokesperson for House Democrats.

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