Razel Suansing, Contributing Photographer

City officials on Thursday provided an update on the city’s mass vaccination plan and announced an executive order aiming to curb outbreaks in businesses. 

At a Zoom press conference, the New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker announced a slew of reporting requirements for Elm City establishments, which starting Dec. 7 will be required to develop and publicize return-to-work policies for employees who test positive for COVID-19 based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. They will also be obligated to conduct employee health screenings and report positive cases to the New Haven Public Health Department. The order comes on the heels of a dozen warnings and three business citations for violations of public health orders.

New Haven Public Health Director Maritza Bond also announced that the city has drafted a mass vaccination plan and is waiting for the Food and Drug Administration to approve the vaccine.

“We realize there is a lot of strain on businesses right now, so we want to make this as easy as possible,” Elicker said at the press conference. “Businesses should be making sure that they have appropriate policies to keep their employees safe — both those employees that are sick and those who aren’t sick, but may be exposed to other employees that are.”

Bond said these guidelines are intended “not to blame one sector over the other.” Bond maintained that these regulations are aimed to help employers prevent outbreaks when an employee tests positive, as well as to provide “technical support” to businesses. The executive order also intends to ensure consistent and streamlined reporting of COVID-19 cases by establishments.

If businesses do not abide by these regulations, the Health Department can issue a closure order or revoke a city-issued license.

The Economic Development and Health Departments will be hosting a webinar to orient businesses on the CDC’s return-to-work guidelines on Friday. According to Economic Development Administrator Michael Piscitelli, the webinar will also cover the guidelines for on-site workers and protocols for reporting cases to the Health Department.

On Nov. 24, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced that city officials can fine businesses violating public health guidelines up to $10,000 dollars. In response, New Haven announced a two-tier system to hold businesses accountable. The city will first issue an official warning to the businesses. It will then impose fines if businesses still fail to abide by regulations. Since the announcement, City Hall has issued 12 warnings and three $100-dollar fines.

Elicker said that since the beginning of the pandemic, the city has investigated and contact-traced 69 COVID-19 clusters. He added that 20 of these clusters had been in restaurants.

“By and large, what I have seen is that establishments have been very, very cautious when an employee gets COVID,” said Elicker. “But there’s been enough examples that we were concerned enough that we felt this was a necessary step.”

The vaccination plan has three phases. The first phase targets the Elm City’s first responders and health workers. Bond said the following phases will be announced once more information about the number of doses available to New Haven is known.

Bond also added that different sectors would be responsible for vaccinating different parts of the public. For example, she said Stop & Shop would offer vaccinations for the general population, hospitals would vaccinate health care workers and the city health department would vaccinate first responders.

Both Bond and Elicker recognized the challenge of public trust in the vaccine. To alleviate skepticism over its safety, Bond said that City Hall will be transparent about data on the vaccine’s safety and possible side effects. Elicker added that he and Bond will be first in line to get the vaccine to prove its safety to the New Haven public.

As of Dec. 3, New Haven has reported 5,437 COVID-19 cases and 126 deaths.

Razel Suansing | razel.suansing@yale.edu