Trumbull official: Vaccinating teachers next could create 'mini boom' for economy

TRUMBULL — Local officials praised this week’s announcement that school staff and professional child care providers would next be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

Superintendent Martin Semmel said he was excited about what the state’s distribution plan means for his teachers.

“The staff have been such troopers all year. I know they’re all really excited. It’s really good news,” he said.

With teachers eligible March 1, it will still take time to get vaccines administered, “but there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel,” Semmel said.

“The teachers and staff have been troopers and I know they’re excited to finally be eligible,” he said. “It’s better for them, and better for the students, when they’re in class. It’s just a much better dynamic.”

The state prioritizing the group would help protect educators and address the repeated need to close schools when teachers exposed to the virus must quarantine, Gov. Ned Lamont’s office said.

Dedicated clinics will be set up specifically for educators in March. Teachers and child care providers can soon expect information about the clinics from their school administrators and employers, the governor’s office said.

The move by the governor puts educators in line for the vaccine ahead of other essential workers, including grocery store employees, public transportation drivers, manufacturing workers and more. It also prioritizes teachers over those with preexisting medical conditions that put them at greater risk of COVID-19 complications, who were expected to be among the next groups eligible.

State Rep. David Rutigliano, R-123rd District, who is a partner in the SBC Restaurant Group, said he spoke to several people in the restaurant industry who were supportive of the decision, even though it meant restaurant workers would be bumped back on the priority list.

“They’re happy to see their customers getting vaccinated,” he said. “People get vaccinated, you’re more willing to go out.”

Rutigliano expressed concern about residents with chronic illness who had previously been expecting to become eligible to receive a vaccine next month.

“I talked to someone this morning who thought she would be able to get a vaccine next week that now has to wait another few months,” he said.

Economic and Community Development Director Rina Bakalar said she hoped the decision to move school staff to the front of the vaccination line would have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the state economy.

“I think this is when you can start to see a mini boom,” she said. “There’s a lot of pent-up demand.”

Bakalar, who also chairs the town’s Long Term Recovery committee, said the move could help unemployed workers rejoin the workforce.

“If we can get the schools and day care open on a more normal basis, obviously, that’s critically important to the local economy,” she said. “There are too many people out there that can’t get back to work, or can’t work full-time, because they still have to be home with their kids two days a week.”

Bakalar said she would like to see grocery workers be next in line to get vaccinated.

“They can’t work remotely, and they’ve been there for us this whole time,” she said.

deng@trumbulltimes.com