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    Thursday, June 20, 2024

    UPDATED: Democratic lawmakers in region unveil pandemic preparedness plan

    A coalition of Democratic state lawmakers from eastern Connecticut plan to propose legislation creating a new pandemic  preparedness office that would focus on testing, emergency stockpiles of equipment and the continuity of social services.

    State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, is spearheading the effort.

    "Governor (Ned) Lamont and various state departments have done a great job managing the coronavirus pandemic over the past 10 months in Connecticut," she said in a news release. “Now, we need to focus on preparing Connecticut to survive and thrive in any future pandemic, and that means being more self-sufficient when it comes to PPE while growing and protecting jobs."

    Lamont pushed back against the proposal at his Monday briefing on the coronavirus, saying the legislators "should come and talk to me about it."

    "I think we’ve got a pandemic preparedness group right now. Early on, it was the reopen committee. Now its the vaccine advisory group," he said. "We’ve got a great team in house that’s working with a group of advisors, but if there’s some things that we should be doing that we’re not, I look forward to talking to the legislators.”

    The proposed bill creating a new Office of Pandemic Preparedness has the support of Sens. Mae Flexer of Killingly and Norm Needleman of Essex and Reps. Brian Smith of Colchester, Susan Johnson of Windham, Anthony Nolan of New London, Christine Conley of Groton, Emmett Riley of Norwich, Joe de la Cruz of Groton and Kevin Ryan of Montville.

    "Diseases even more deadly than COVID-19 pose a permanent risk to public health,” Needleman said. “By putting safeguards in place and improving our ability to respond to such a threat, this legislation would solidify our state’s commitment to keeping residents as safe as possible.”

    The proposed legislation would:

    • Create a standing Office of Pandemic Preparedness to focus on testing, emergency stockpiles and continuity of social services. Office staff would consist of executive branch employees from the Department of Public Health, Department of Administrative Services, Department of Education, Department of Labor, Department of Economic and Community Development, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection and Department of Social Services.

    • Create a Medical Manufacturing Pipeline to generate medical and other jobs and develop the means to manufacture medical supplies in Connecticut.

    • Guarantee support for essential workers through Paid Family and Medical Leave, rent and mortgage assistance, and emergency payments, and offer long-term benefits and job training to people who have lost their jobs due to any pandemic crisis.

    • Provide small businesses with personal protective equipment and — in addition to any other federal or state aid available — provide small businesses with direct access to in-state grant and loan specialists.

    • Create a schools plan to address staff shortages based on pandemic concerns, such as allowing districts to share teachers on a limited basis.

    Day Staff Writer Julia Bergman contributed to this report.

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