NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect the correct deadline in which Connecticut state employees must prove they are vaccinated against COVID.
HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut state employees have until Monday, Oct. 4, to get the COVID vaccine, Governor Ned Lamont announced Wednesday. Starting Oct. 5 and no later than Oct. 11, they will go on unpaid leave. It’s unclear if anyone can be terminated after that deadline.
The mandate covers state employees, teachers, and long-term care workers. State workers are required to get the COVID vaccine or test weekly.
“If you won’t get vaccinated, won’t get tested, then there will be an unpaid leave,” Lamont said.
The evolving numbers show a majority are complying. Of the 32,000 total executive branch employees, 19,000 are or will be vaccinated. 10,000 have said paperwork is not complete and 3,000 have opted for the weekly testing option.
While the governor said he is encouraged by the progress, there is still work to be done in the coming days.
“There will be some people who say hell no and I’m sorry but that means you’re not safe, you’re not safe to the people around you and you’re not safe to the people you are treating and you can not come into work,” Lamont said.
Commissioner Josh Geballe of the Department of Administrative Services said the process has been complicated.
“There [are] a lot of people in there who are vaccinated and somehow their paperwork got caught up, maybe they didn’t complete the form properly,” Geballe said.
Oly those in long-term care facilities or state hospitals can ask for a medical or religious waiver.
The state has contracted with WellSpark. A smartphone app lets workers upload vaccine cards or forms to opt-out of the shot. The form includes a warning — false information is punishable with a $2,000 fine or a year in prison. Human resources can discuss the nature of your beliefs.
Connecticut Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Manisha Juthani said it is unclear how many employees have submitted for the waiver.
“We are still in the process of gathering all that information because it is a fluid situation, still going through all that paperwork,” Juthani said.
The governor says religious leaders around the world have endorsed the vaccine, but there will be some who want an exemption and may use the system.
“First of all, it will be the numbers, is this something that is being exploited or are these a very small group of Mother Teresas who come forward and feel deeply,” Lamont said.
That comment drew fire from Republicans.
“Mother Teresa dedicated her life to service. She is an international role model of faith, humility, and charity. She is recognized as a Saint in the Roman Catholic Church. Her life must be emulated not denigrated as a joke or used as a veiled sarcastic insult. Religious freedom is a core value of our nation. Government has no business judging someone’s religious beliefs, let alone joking or laughing at them,” said State Senator and Minority Leader Kevin Kelly.
State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition spokesperson Logan Place told News 8 “there are a number of issues upon which the parties remain in disagreement and which may be decided by a neutral arbitrator.”
The first four COVID tests will be paid for by the state. Additionally, the state is allowing employees to use sick, personal and vacation time to cover testing.
News 8 will continue to follow this story.