Hartford Workers & COVID

This is a post I plan on updating as new information relevant to those of us working face-to-face with the Hartford public becomes available, which you can bookmark for easy reference. Contact me with updates, additions, corrections or if you’re interested in organizing for stronger health protections for workers.

Update 4/10/22–Although the number of tests being reported to the state is very low (the lowest since July 2021), the positivity rate for Hartford proper shot up in from 1.4% (March 13th – 26th) to 2.4% (March 20th – April 2nd) suggesting that the actual positivity rate for city residents is much higher than the official data suggests. Hospitalizations remain low, though deaths continue to mount. 19 Hartford residents have died from COVID-19 since March 1st, for a total of 413 in two years.

The National Day Laborers Organizing Network has launched a collection of Spanish-language materials aimed at “popular education” on public health, putting the tools of harm reduction in the hands of those the government has left out in the cold.

Update 4/11/22–As the pandemic continues to drive a mass disabling event in our society, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network published this letter to the CDC last month that places health and safety advocacy squarely in a disability justice framework.

Since January the federal government began requiring that private insurance carriers cover the cost of at-home rapid tests. Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield allows for free testing at drivethru sites such as Walgreens and CVS (including the ones at the corner of Washington St and Park St). You can make an appointment for CVS here, or Walgreens here. Contact your provider for coverage details.

Regular testing when maskless indoor gatherings are commonplace provides an important early warning sign that widespread transmission is on the rise, allowing us to make informed individual decisions regarding potential exposure and tells us which policies should be changed in order to avoid the many mistakes of the past.

The Hartford Courant reported on March 17th that a new “sub-variant” of Omicron now accounts for “nearly half” of all infections in Connecticut, which is even more contagious than the mutated virus that spread exponentially after the holidays just a few months ago. Politicized authorities like the CDC are once again downplaying the risk, while the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the new “BA.2” Omicron variant is just as severe. Since January 1st, 73 Hartford residents have died from COVID-19, bringing the official tally to 410 in the last two years. Hospitalizations peaked at 555 in Hartford County alone on January 19th, a figure that easily projects into the thousands of individuals being hospitalized over the course of the “mild” Omicron surge (December-February). Post COVID-19 symptoms, AKA “Long COVID” can “affect as many as 30 percent of patients and can include a continuation of symptoms suffered during the acute phase — shortness of breath or fatigue, for example — along with new symptoms that occur after patients feel like they’ve recovered: chest discomfort, severe pain, dizziness, vomiting, brain fog.” (The Harvard Gazette, February 14th 2022).

If we are to go beyond public health measures that businesses and government agencies have been unwilling to enforce, tipping the scales on the pandemic to make it truly wind down will undoubtedly involve global vaccination as well as universally available testing and treatments (literally the “pan-” in pandemic). Unfortunately the Biden administration recently failed to come to an equitable agreement with South Africa, the European Union and India on these questions, achieving only the half-measure of a limited patent waiver that creates unnecessary hurdles for the rest of the world’s population to stop the transmission and continued mutation of the virus fueling wave after massive wave.

As members of a powerful labor union, we have a special opportunity to call upon the leadership of our union to advance a cause that profoundly affects working people in Hartford and around the world. AFSCME Council 4 Executive Director Jody Barr can be reached at jbarr@council4.org, and our Legislative Directors can be reached at banderson@council4.org and zleavy@council4.org. Public Citizen has a wealth of educational information available to inform the advocacy of our fellow members as well as our leaders.

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