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Governor Lamont Issues Call for General Assembly To Meet in a Limited Special Session on the COVID-19 Public Health and Civil Preparedness Emergencies

todaySeptember 22, 2021 109

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(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont today announced that he has issued a proclamation calling the Connecticut General Assembly to meet in a limited special session beginning Monday, September 27, 2021, for the sole purpose of approving a renewal of the declaration of public health and civil preparedness emergencies that were issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, today he transmitted a letter to legislative leaders announcing his intention to renew the declarations through February 15, 2022. The declarations, which were originally enacted on March 10, 2020, are set to expire on September 30, 2021. Connecticut statutes require the state legislature to approve the renewal.

A state law enacted this summer with broad bipartisan support and approved by Governor Lamont empowers the six top Democratic and Republican legislative leaders to disapprove any of the executive orders that are issued under the emergency declarations. To date, no action has been taken by the legislature to overturn any of the remaining executive orders issued by the governor to ensure the public health and safety of the residents of Connecticut.

Governor Lamont’s full letter to legislative leaders is as follows:

September 22, 2021

 

Sen. Martin M. Looney
Senate President Pro Tempore

Rep. Matthew Ritter
Speaker of the House of Representatives

Sen. Bob Duff
Senate Majority Leader

Rep. Jason Rojas
House Majority Leader

Sen. Kevin Kelly
Senate Minority Leader

Rep. Vincent J. Candelora
House Minority Leader

VIA ELECTRONIC DELIVERY

RE: Renewal of Emergency Declarations to February 15, 2022 Pursuant to Special Act 21-5

Dear Senator Looney, Representative Ritter, Senator Duff, Representative Rojas, Senator Kelly, and Representative Candelora,

I write today to inform you, pursuant to Special Act No. 21-5, that I intend to renew through February 15, 2022 the declarations of public health and civil preparedness emergencies originally   declared on March 10, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In accordance with the requirement in Special Act No. 21-5 for approval by the General Assembly of such renewal, today I am issuing a call to the General Assembly to meet in special session no earlier than September 27, 2021. As we have discussed, there remain several reasons why it is prudent and responsible to renew the emergency declarations.

When I last wrote to you regarding an extension of the emergency declarations to September 30, 2021, I warned that despite our notable progress in limiting the spread of COVID-19, the emergency of the Delta variant posed significant and unknown risks, and that our vaccination campaign remained critical to limiting those risks and protecting the vulnerable. Since then, we have unfortunately seen the risks of the Delta variant realized, with a prolonged surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from this new and more contagious variant. In fact, some states have seen their highest rates of hospitalization and severe illness during this most recent surge. At the same time, Connecticut saw case rates increase to levels not seen since early spring.

Still, without our ongoing vaccination campaign, the damage from this highly contagious strain of the disease would have been much worse, and further increasing vaccination rates, along with continued use of masks and other protective measures, holds the best hope of preventing or reducing the effects of another surge from the Delta variant or even more contagious and harmful variants. The fact that we have the lowest case rate in the nation is due in no small part to the fact that Connecticut has the highest percentage of adults vaccinated in the nation and has consistently remained second in the nation in the percentage of our population that is fully vaccinated.

Despite the higher transmissibility of the Delta variant, the currently authorized vaccines remain highly effective and the best method of preventing infection, serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. The vast majority of those who died or were hospitalized from COVID-19 were not vaccinated. And while breakthrough cases are possible, emerging data shows that overall, these cases are less serious and those who get them are less likely to infect others. Additionally, one of the best ways to prevent the emergence of even more contagious and more dangerous COVID-19 strains, including those that may evade the effectiveness of current vaccines, is for as many people to be vaccinated as possible.

Several of the few remaining executive orders that remain in effect are critical to the State’s ability to continue our vaccination campaign and other critical safety measures, especially masking requirements in schools and certain high-risk settings. A brief description of some of the orders is set forth below. A list of all the orders that I intend to continue together with a short summary of two likely new orders is attached to this letter as Exhibit A.

Requiring the staff of nursing homes and other long term care facilities to be vaccinated ensures that we maintain the progress we have made in protecting our elderly and most vulnerable residents.

Requiring state employees and contractors who regularly visit state hospital facilities to be vaccinated and requiring state employees who work in state owned or controlled buildings to be vaccinated or test regularly ensure that critical state services continue without disruption and that the public, our state employees, and vulnerable populations in the care of the state have adequate protection from a higher risk of infection, serious disease, hospitalization, and death.

Requiring those who work in schools and childcare facilities to be vaccinated or test regularly, and requiring masks in schools, ensures that we use the scientifically proven tools at our disposal to protect our children, most of whom are not yet eligible for the vaccine, from this disease. The increased transmissibility of the Delta variant has resulted in greatly increased spread among children. Inevitably, these higher numbers mean that while at a lower rate than adults, more children experience serious illness, hospitalization, and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It should not be controversial that this is both largely preventable and wholly unacceptable.

In addition to enabling the essential vaccination and masking requirements, the remaining handful of active executive orders that I intend to extend have proven highly valuable at responding to the effects of the pandemic on our citizens.

Our temporary changes to the summary process for eviction, combined with UniteCT, our landlord-tenant rent relief program, have greatly increased the chances that both landlords and tenants receive financial relief that keeps residents in their homes and keeps landlords solvent, so much so that UniteCT has been cited by the White House as a national model of how to distribute such relief.

In addition, an executive order that enables the provision of non-congregate housing ensures that those experiencing homelessness and survivors of domestic violence have safe shelter in an environment where they are much less vulnerable to the risks of COVID-19. Despite speculation to the contrary, the federal government has made it clear that we would not receive the roughly $2 million per quarter in FEMA reimbursement for such efforts without the executive order and the emergency declarations that enabled it. To date, Connecticut has received more than $7.7 million in cumulative reimbursements related to this order, with approximately $8 million in additional reimbursements pending. Furthermore, FEMA has also made clear that continuing emergency food assistance for Connecticut residents, amounting to more than $3.5 million in reimbursable costs to date, will not continue without a renewal of the emergency declaration.

As we have seen, the changing circumstances, including this week’s news that at least one vaccine is safe and effective for younger children and the developing federal stance on booster shots, may require additional action with short notice and the flexibility to make rapid adjustments for which the legislative process is not well suited. The emergency declarations make possible, and therefore, should remain in place as we prepare for any possible winter surge and adjust our public health campaign to deal with this continuing emergency.

As the leaders of the General Assembly, you have authority under Special Act 21-5 to reject any executive order issued pursuant to these declarations, and I encourage you to meet, consider all of the COVID-19 orders, and vote on their continuation.

In conclusion, I remain committed to consulting with you and your members regarding this ongoing public health threat and the measures that are necessary to protect Connecticut residents from it. I respectfully urge you to approve a renewal of the emergency declarations through February 15, 2022.

Sincerely,

Ned Lamont
Governor

cc:  Members of the General Assembly

 

Written by: Mike Minarsky

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