State, hospital association move to mandate COVID-19 boosters for health workers
Gov. Ned Lamont is issuing an executive order that will require staff at nursing homes and hospitals to get coronavirus booster shots. The order came as the state announced the daily COVID-19 case rate held steady at about 23%, after climbing to a record high of nearly 24% early in the week.
The state deadline for staff and contractors at long-term care facilities to get booster shots is February 11. The state also issued guidance to allow patients who are COVID-19 positive to be accepted at long-term care facilities.
“That will pay dramatic dividends. That will open up capacity in our hospitals,” Lamont said. “It will make it easier for us to transfer people from the hospitals to the nursing homes.”
The guidance came as the state reported staff COVID-19 cases at nursing homes have doubled to nearly 1,400 in the last week, while resident cases tripled to over 600 during that time. Dr. Deidre Gifford, Commissioner of the state Department of Social Services, said no testing will be offered to staff in lieu of a booster shot.
“We really have started to see an uptick in our cases in both staff and residents of long term care facilities,” Gifford said. “Thankfully, because of the very high level of booster and vaccination that we see in our long term care residents, we are not seeing the same kind of really significant morbidity we saw in the first two waves of the pandemic.”
More than 80% of nursing home patients have gotten booster shots, but a much smaller share of staff have gotten boosters.
Meanwhile, the Connecticut Hospital Association also says it will require its members to mandate booster shots for their staff, as several hospitals reported record numbers of staff out due to COVID-19 exposure or sickness early in the week. Officials said on Thursday they estimate the current rate of boosters received by hospital staff is between 30% and 50% statewide.
Data released by the state Department of Public Health on Thursday showed 121 people have died with COVID-19 in Connecticut over the last week. State Public Health Commissioner Dr. Manisha Juthani said the rate of deaths has increased slowly, but the situation is still better than it had been before vaccines were widely available.
“Our deaths this year during this week are about a third of the number of deaths we had in a comparable week last year. That is due to the tremendous efforts toward vaccination and boosting that is protecting the vast majority of our residents,” Juthani said.
Juthani said vaccinated people with booster shots tend to have the mildest symptoms.
The state reported another 104 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 since Wednesday, climbing to a total of 1,784. The number is reaching close to the peak of April 22, 2020, when 1,972 patients with COVID-19 were in state hospitals.
Current state data show unvaccinated people make up most of the seriously ill patients in intensive care units.