Essential workers react to announcement of CT COVID vaccine rollout; grocery store workers disappointed, educators relieved

Coronavirus

CONNECTICUT (WTNH) — As soon as news dropped Monday afternoon about the new COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan, reactions started pouring in from essential workers. Some relieved. Others were disappointed.

As soon as news broke this afternoon that teachers would get dedicated vaccine clinics starting in March, teachers started texting one another, happy to share they will be able to get the vaccine starting next week.

News 8 spoke with Meghan Hatch-Geary Monday, who teaches English at Woodland Regional High School. She said teaching in-person is the best thing for education and this will allow them to do more of that.     

“This is going to allow for more continuity and consistency of in-person learning and vaccinating educators and school staff is not just about benefiting teachers, it’s about benefitting our students and our families and returning a sense of normalcy, so we can really move forward into the future healthier and stronger and more secure,” said Hatch-Geary.

Don Williams, executive director for Connecticut Education Association said Tuesday, “That’s going to be good for the safety of students, school staff, and it’s going to be good for the parents who need to go to work and know their students are safe and being educated.”

It should take about a month to fully vaccinate all teachers and school staff across Connecticut.

RELATED: State’s largest teachers union reacts to teachers being prioritized in COVID-19 vaccine distribution

The unions that represent grocery workers; however, were disheartened by Monday’s news. They say they have been on the front lines since this pandemic began. They feel they’re no longer a priority as the state shifts to an age-based approach.

“Our members right from day one were out in front of the customers, so we never thought they would be out of line that they wouldn’t get any preference,” said UFCW Local 371’s Keri Hoehne.

Hoehne said hundreds of them have gotten COVID since the pandemic started. A few of her members have died and many still deal with the lingering effects.

She said nearly a dozen more are reported every week.

“A typical cashier sees hundreds of people throughout the course of the day,” explained Tim Devanney, co-president of Highland Park Market to News 8 Tuesday. “That’s a lot of exposure for them.”

He added, “We were disappointed because we were a part of 1B, and then we felt like we were getting pushed down the priority list for 1B, and then we find out essential workers are no longer a class. You’re much more at risk than someone who’s at home and staying safe and doesn’t depend on being out there in public for their livelihood. We do hope it will be reconsidered.”

Governor Lamont said the goal of the new plan is to get as many people vaccinated as possible. He believes this is the best path to meet that challenge. The governor also feels this provides a clear timeline for eligibility — doing away with any confusion.

“We started hearing from our folks at the vaccinations centers, saying ‘how am I going to be able to identify how this is an essential worker and not just somebody saying they’re an essential worker,'” said Governor Lamont. “We thought we did better narrowing the aperture, being very clear about who’s eligible, being able to show up with a driver’s license — 55 and above — is a very easy metric to track and then every three weeks we’ll be able to expand that to another age group.”

As it stands right now, starting on March 1, people who are 55 and older as well as educators and childcare providers will be eligible to get their vaccines. 

CT Transit workers also disappointed for the same reason. And what’s worse, they’re seeing a spike in COVID cases at one of their facilities.

RELATED: CT Transit general manager responds to governor’s COVID vaccination rollout plan.

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