In a Monday press conference, Gov. Ned Lamont announced that Connecticut’s COVID-19 vaccine plan will follow an age-based approach –– with an exception for child care providers, as well as educators and staff working in pre-K through 12 schools.
Although most of the state will only be able to get vaccinated once their age group becomes eligible, there will be exceptions for those working in education and child care. Starting on March 1, professional child care providers, schoolteachers, custodians, bus drivers, food service workers, in-class volunteers and in-school administrative staff will have access to specifically allocated vaccine clinics.
According to Chief Operating Officer of the Office of the Governor Josh Geballe ’97 SOM ’02, there will be a separate stream of vaccine supplies reserved for this group. School employees who do not need to be in school buildings, in addition to school board members and staff who are able to telecommute, will have to wait until their age group becomes eligible.
Dave Cicarella, the president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers, told the News that Lamont’s announcement was welcome news for teachers. Cicarella said he believes that teachers getting vaccinated is vital to ensure that schools can reopen safely without disruptions.
“We’ve seen across the state throughout the pandemic that schools that are in person — hybrid or fully in person — have had issues where [so many] teachers have had to quarantine … that they have had to close schools or the school system,” Cicarella said. “If we’re gonna get the kids … back in school for in-person learning, the only way to do that is to get teachers vaccinated.”
However, Cicarella argued that teacher vaccinations cannot come at the expense of other populations seeking to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Many essential workers have expressed their disappointment with Lamont’s decision to follow age-based eligibility rather than a system based on risk of exposure. Others have also voiced concern over why vulnerable populations –– including communities of color –– were not prioritized.
While Lamont has released guidelines for state distribution of the vaccine, the details of an allocation plan in New Haven for teachers have yet to be finalized.
Cicarella said that AFT Connecticut has been pushing for a “parallel track” for teacher vaccinations to address concerns about vaccine allocation. A “parallel track” means that the state of Connecticut would take a certain percentage of the total amount of vaccines it receives from the federal government and set that percentage aside specifically for school educators. The rest of the supply would go to the general public.
According to Geballe, the “parallel track” is likely to be adopted — where the state’s health department will allocate COVID-19 vaccines based on several factors, including the number of teachers. For New Haven, that would mean that once the state allocates COVID-19 vaccines to the city, the New Haven Department of Health and New Haven Public Schools will decide which teachers get the vaccines first. Cicarella said that the New Haven Federation of Teachers would give input on the rollout of teacher vaccinations in New Haven, but a plan has not yet been finalized as of Thursday night.
Lamont explained that Geballe and Public Health Commissioner Deidre Gifford have been in touch with superintendents and have told them to start preparing to receive mobile vaccination vans in approximately a week. The order in which different schools are tended to will depend on which ones are ready to receive the vans first, Lamont explained.
According to Geballe, the Office of the Governor will be working with local superintendents and health directors to come up with strategies for vaccination clinics that are specific to individual Connecticut communities.
“It’s likely going to be a little bit different from town to town and district to district, depending on the size and the scale that they have,” Geballe said at Monday’s press conference.
Cicarella told the News that while there will probably be a small subset of teachers who will decline a COVID-19 vaccine, he believes a majority of them will take it. He added that most of the questions he has heard from rank-and-file teachers have been about how, when and where to get a COVID-19 vaccine — not about if they should get a vaccine.
Rebecca Mickelson, a pre-K art teacher at Dr. Reginald Mayo Early Learning Center, is one teacher who will take the COVID-19 vaccine. She told the News that she would enthusiastically get the shot as soon as possible. Mickelson is not sure about where or when she will get vaccinated because rollout details are still being finalized by New Haven Public Schools.
Mickelson has been teaching classes in person since Jan. 19 — even though she does not support the district’s decision to partially reopen schools based on public health concerns. She said that while Lamont’s announcement does not change her mind about school reopening, it does make her feel safer about returning to the classroom.
According to the most recent data from the New Haven Public Schools COVID-19 Dashboard, 83 New Haven Public Schools students and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 since Jan. 19.
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