Attorneys from three legal aid programs from across the state filed a federal complaint Monday against Gov. Ned Lamont and Connecticut, alleging that its vaccine rollout plan discriminates against residents of color.
The complaint asks the Office for Civil Rights to “immediately investigate and issue findings on an expedited basis” on whether the vaccine rollout discriminates on the basis of race and disability. Attorneys from Connecticut Legal Services, Inc., the New Haven Legal Assistance Association and Greater Hartford Legal Aid asked the OCR to tell Connecticut to revise its vaccine rollout to include people with underlying health conditions that put them at risk of contracting COVID-19, regardless of their age, and individuals who hold jobs that put them at heightened risk of contracting the virus, as identified by the Centers for Disease Control.
The complaint is at least the second filed since Feb. 22, when officials announced the COVID-19 vaccine would be distributed on the basis of age. Disability Rights Connecticut filed a similar complaint days later, claiming the new rollout “constitutes disability discrimination” that violates federal law.
Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday that Connecticut will eliminate capacity limits on restaurants, houses of worship, retailers and most businesses on March 19 but will retain mandates for social distancing and masks as a precaution against a resurgence of COVID-19.
The rollback comes as about 60% of Connecticut residents 65 and older have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, helping to drive down hospitalizations, new infections and deaths to their lowest point in 2021, though still higher than last summer.
The governor’s announcement was expected. It comes after Texas, Mississippi and three other states took more aggressive steps to end mask mandates and business restrictions, a move denounced as premature by President Joe Biden.
Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday he is throwing out the state’s current playbook for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout – which had prioritized people with underlying medical conditions and certain types of workers, such as grocery store and agricultural employees – and is shifting to a system that is strictly age-based, with the next round of shots open to people who are 55 to 64 beginning March 1.
The announcement came just as the state was supposed to open up the next round of vaccines to “essential workers” such as teachers and other school staff, grocery store employees and transportation workers, as well as people 16 and older who have underlying health conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
State officials said teachers and others who work in the schools will still be prioritized in the coming weeks, with special clinics devoted just to those employees. Schools staff is expected to become eligible beginning March 1, with a goal of giving all workers who want a shot access to a first dose by late March.
For some municipal leaders, the state legislature’s 2015 promise to send hundreds of millions of dollars in sales tax revenue to cities and towns is one of the worst examples of fiscal bait-and-switch in Connecticut politics.
And for the Democratic state legislators — who won re-election after making that pledge — the promise is something they’d like to forget.
That’s because the Municipal Revenue Sharing Account, the mechanism through which municipalities would receive a portion of the state sales tax, also has become a recurring pain in the legislature’s side.
The state is closing the two COVID-19 recovery centers for nursing home residents in Meriden and Torrington because the number of infections has fallen to the point that they are no longer necessary.
“Athena Health Care Systems was pleased to partner with the state of Connecticut to operate COVID recovery centers in Meriden and Torrington to help some of our most vulnerable patients recover as well as keep our nursing home residents safe,” Athena Director of Marketing Timothy Brown said.
“We are pleased to say that we are now able to close both recovery centers. It really is positive news — it means that things are going in the right direction when it comes to this pandemic and that the recovery center model has worked.”
While the ongoing rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine is promising, federal and state policymakers, as well as business leaders, will have to act to reverse an economic decline that has exacerbated longstanding inequalities, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston warned Friday.
Speaking at Yale University’s Economic Development Synmposium, Eric S. Rosengren predicted the national and regional economies could see significant gains in the second half of 2021, provided the vaccine distribution is successful.
“The disparate economic outcomes for some individuals and groups during the pandemic have further exacerbated longstanding issues in our economy,” Rosengren said. “The uneven nature of this downturn has highlighted the need to rebuild the economy in a more inclusive way.”
More than 110,000 doses of COVID vaccine have been administered in the state’s long-term care facilities since late December, and state official estimate they are about two-thirds of the way to completing vaccinations of those residents.
Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week show that 110,016 vaccines have been administered through the long-term care facility partnership through which CVS and Walgreens pharmacists have vaccinated residents staff at nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Connecticut.
Gov. Ned Lamont proposed a two-year, $46 billion budget Wednesday that relies on federal funding and state reserves to close a major deficit without significant tax hikes while bolstering aid for municipalities and school districts.
But the package also leaves Connecticut with several budget challenges to be resolved in the not-so-distant future.
The package would channel more than $400 million in emergency federal relief to low-performing school districts. But it also would suspend plans to bolster regular state-funded aid for municipal schools by $90 million in the next two-year budget cycle.