On August 19, 2021, Governor Lamont issued Executive Order 13D requiring covered workers in a public or non-public pre-K to grade 12 school to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or, if not vaccinated, to submit to weekly COVID-19 testing. On September 10, 2021, Governor Lamont issued Executive Order 13G, which repealed Executive Order 13D and made various clarifications and changes to the previous order. On September 17, 2021, the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) issued Implementation Guidance for Executive Order 13G ("DPH Guidance"), adding many new details to the requirements of Executive Order 13G.
In summary, Executive Order 13G mandates that school boards and independent schools require covered workers to:
- be fully vaccinated against COVID-19;
- have received a single-dose vaccination, or have completed or at least started a two-dose regimen, with an appointment for the second dose;
- have a medical exemption; or
- have a religious exemption.
As an alternative to vaccination, any covered worker hired before September 27, 2021 also has the option of submitting to weekly testing and any other safety precautions imposed by the school. In contrast, covered workers hired on and after September 27 will not be permitted to decline vaccination unless they have a documented and approved medical or religious exemption.
Executive Order 13G further requires that school boards (1) authenticate the vaccination status of covered workers, (2) maintain documentation of vaccination or exemption of such individuals, and (3) require unvaccinated covered workers to submit to COVID-19 testing not less than once per week until fully vaccinated and provide adequate proof of the results of the testing "in a form and manner directed by the Department of Public Health."
The DPH Guidance provides many new details regarding the implementation of Executive Order 13G. Those new details can be summarized as follows:
Proof of Vaccination Status
- Employees providing proof of vaccination status must submit a signed declaration of authenticity.
- Medical exemption requests must contain specific and detailed information, as set forth in sample forms provided by DPH. Schools and school districts may use DPH's sample form, or they may use their own form, provided it collects the same information designated in DPH's form.
- Religious and spiritual belief exemption requests may be submitted on a sample form provided by DPH, or on a form provided by the school or school district. Schools and school districts "should determine, in discussion with their Human Resources management and legal counsel, what process and information is appropriate and necessary for review in determining whether a request for religious or spiritual exemption from COVID-19 vaccination submitted by a covered worker should be accepted or rejected."
COVID-19 Weekly Testing
- Employees who are not fully vaccinated must submit to weekly COVID-19 testing effective September 27, 2021. Such testing must be (1) either PCR or antigen SARS-CoV-2 tests, (2) administered and reported by a state licensed clinical laboratory, pharmacy-based testing provider, or other healthcare provider facility with a current Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments waiver, and (3) submitted to the school board within 72 hours of the test administration date.
- Covered workers who are not fully vaccinated may receive a temporary waiver from the testing requirement if they can provide documented proof that they have tested positive for, or been diagnosed with, COVID-19 infection in the prior 90 days. Any covered worker granted a temporary waiver must return to regular weekly testing after the expiration date indicated on the waiver form if not fully vaccinated by that date.
- School boards are responsible to secure reports from contractors regarding their contract workers' compliance with Executive Order 13G.
- At a minimum, contractors must provide periodic reporting of contract workers who are vaccinated, have been granted an exemption, and are subject to weekly testing at a frequency that the school board determines sufficient to assure compliance.
- Submission of the appropriate vaccination documentation, requests for exemptions, and/or test results must take place by September 27, 2021.
- If a covered worker falls out of compliance at any time with the requirements of Executive Order 13G, school boards must restrict such worker's access to their facilities and premises.
As outlined above, Executive Order 13G and the DPH Guidance contain significant new requirements for schools in Connecticut. A full discussion of vaccination, exemption, and testing-related requirements is beyond the scope of this alert. All public school districts and non-public schools are advised to carefully review Executive Order 13G and the DPH Guidance and contact legal counsel with any questions or concerns.
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