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Costs adding up for state to monitor COVID-19 testing of state employees who won't get vaccinated

A vial used for conducting the COVID-19 test is shown at a drive-thru mobile center outside Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center. (Joe Amon/Connecticut Public/NENC)
Joe Amon
Connecticut Public/NENC
A vial used for conducting the COVID-19 test is shown at a drive-thru mobile center outside Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center. (Joe Amon/Connecticut Public/NENC)

The Lamont administration will pay nearly $150,000 each month to a vendor to primarily monitor COVID testing results for the 5,838 state employees who have declined to get the vaccine.

That cost does not include the bill the state will pick up to cover the weekly tests.

Gov. Ned Lamont previously agreed to cover four weeks of testing, but on Friday evening his administration reached an agreement with state employee union leaders to pick up the cost for the duration of the pandemic.

“The deal is that you get tested every week. You don’t get tested every week, you don’t work,” said Lamont, a Democrat. “I can’t have you taking care of a kid with disabilities if you refuse to get vaccinated and you miss getting tested for a couple of weeks. That’s not the way it works — that’s unsafe for everybody involved.”

His administration hasn’t said yet just how much the weekly testing will cost the state. Other contracts the state has entered into in recent months for testing the public, however, show the cost ranges between $85 and $95 per test. If that price holds up for the nearly 6,000 state employees who have decided to get tested, that’s $500,000 a week the state will be spending.

To help implement the governor’s executive order that requires Connecticut’s 30,200 state employees to be vaccinated or tested weekly, the Lamont administration has entered into a contract with Farmington-based WellSpark Health Inc.

The state will pay for five full-time staff to verify vaccinations and monitor the weekly testing results and report employees who don’t comply.

The contract, signed on Sept. 23, shows the state paid a one-time program startup fee of $59,800 and will pay nearly $150,000 per month going forward.

Data compiled by the vendor show that nearly 1 out of every 5 state employees have opted to undergo weekly testing rather than get vaccinated. The Department of Correction, whose staff runs the state’s prisons, has the highest number and share of employees who are unvaccinated —and 41% will be tested each week.

Connecticut is one of several states where people who are imprisoned have higher vaccinations rates than the staff at the facilities, data from UCLA Law shows.

The data released Thursday evening does not break down why employees have opted against the vaccine. The governor’s executive order allows state employees to be exempt from the vaccine requirement for religious reasons or with a note from a medical professional.

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas was an investigative reporter with Connecticut Public’s Accountability Project from July 2021 until August 2022.
Walter Smith Randolph is the Investigative Editor and Director of The Accountability Project at Connecticut Public Broadcasting. The New York City native comes to CT Public after a decade of reporting at local tv stations across the country.
Jim Haddadin is a data journalist for The Accountability Project, Connecticut Public's investigative reporting team. He was previously an investigative producer for NBC Boston, and wrote for newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

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