- Associated Press - Thursday, December 17, 2020

Labor unions accused Connecticut court officials of refusing to address concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and putting workers at risk of contracting COVID-19.

A coalition of unions representing nearly 4,000 court system employees called for an immediate meeting with Chief Justice Richard Robinson and Judge Patrick Carroll III, the chief court administrator.

Carroll said Thursday that judicial officials have been meeting with the unions frequently to address their concerns and that the unions’ requests were under review.



Union officials said the judicial branch has not curtailed work activity in its buildings, despite rising virus cases. There were more than 100 confirmed virus cases among judicial employees or contractors in November, before a surge related to Thanksgiving, the unions said.

This month, there have been nearly 50 confirmed virus cases in state courthouses, which the unions said were more than the 38 cases in all of April when judicial officials closed most court buildings.

“Despite the ever-worsening pandemic, its increasing risk to judicial employees and the public they serve, and what all public health experts tell us is a high likelihood of further significant deterioration, the Branch is continuing the same level of worksite activity that it chose to perform in late November,” union leaders wrote in a letter to judicial officials this week.

“We ask that you immediately reconsider this decision, because it not only puts employees and the public at risk, and because if current infection rates increase as predicted, it may soon reduce the level of services provided to the public,” they wrote.

Carroll said in a statement that the Judicial Branch is following coronavirus guidance and recommendations from the state Department of Public Health. He said most court activities are being conducted remotely, with a minimum number of needed employees present in the courthouses to handle critical functions.

“The Branch is committed to continuing to take all steps necessary to provide the highest level of safety and protection to its employees, judges and stakeholders while still carrying out its critical constitutional obligations,” he said.

In other coronavirus-related news in Connecticut:

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VACCINE SUPPLIES

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont said he now understands that Connecticut will receive fewer vaccines from Pfizer next week than originally expected, a net 13% reduction. Both the governor and his chief operating officer, Josh Geballe, said news that vials of vaccine from Pfizer contain at least one extra dose are helping to make up for the reduction.

Geballe said the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed had originally told Connecticut officials that it could expect to receive 98,000 doses next week, a figure that includes both Pfizer and Moderna manufactured vaccines. But due to “some miscommunication” between the federal government and Pfizer, Geballe said the state now expects to have 86,000 doses next week.

“We’re trying to move as quickly as we can, so it does slow us down a little bit on our ability to roll it out,” Geballe said. But considering that Pfizer’s vials include about six doses instead of five, as first thought, that helps situation, he added.

“It’s going to be very fluid in the coming weeks and we’re getting more information from the feds all the time,” he said. “So these numbers will move around in the coming days.”

As of Thursday, a total of 1,982 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Connecticut. All of the doses administered during the first week of vaccinations have been given to health care workers.

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EARLY DOSES AT NURSING HOMES

Lamont said five selected nursing homes are ready to begin vaccinating residents and staff on Friday, ahead of Monday’s planned rollout.

The Reservoir in West Hartford, which is owned by Genesis Heath Care, and four unnamed long-term care facilities, are part of a state-federal effort to begin vaccinations sooner. Besides Connecticut, Florida, Ohio and West Virginia are also participating.

Lamont is expected to be at the West Hartford facility on Friday to witness the opening of the first clinic, which Geballe called “an historic first step” for Connecticut.

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RED ZONE COMMUNITIES

Lamont’s office said Thursday that 166 of the state’s 169 cities and towns are now considered to be in the red zone alert level, which is the highest alert level for COVID-19 infections in the state. The only municipalities not in the red zone this week are Barkhamsted, Canaan, and Warren.

There were 2,331 new confirmed and probable positive cases registered in Connecticut since Wednesday. Also, there were 46 more COVID-associated deaths, for a total of 5,552. The number of hospitalizations declined by 49 to 1,205.

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