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Transcript: Governor Ned Lamont on "Face the Nation," August 9, 2020

Connecticut gov pushing for in-person classes to avoid "lost year"
Connecticut gov pushing for in-person classes... 07:02

The following is a transcript of an interview with Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont that aired Sunday, August 9, 2020, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to go now to Hartford, Connecticut, and Governor Ned Lamont. Good morning to you, Governor.

CONNECTICUT GOVERNOR NED LAMONT: Good morning, MARGARET.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You decided or you said back in June that you wanted schools to reopen for in-person learning. Dr. Fauci visited the state this week and said the state should reopen. I'm wondering what your plan is to keep schools open. How do you contain a symptomatic spread? And are you regularly testing teachers?

GOVERNOR LAMONT: So first of all, we are one of the first states in the country to close down schools and we've been very cautious as we reopen the rest of our economy. And Dr. Fauci has been helpful. Scott Gottlieb, your next guest, very helpful. Kept a very low infection rate, about one percent, one of the lowest in the country over the last six, seven weeks now. So I think if Connecticut can't get reopened, I don't know who can around the country. And we're doing it led by public health, making sure everybody's wearing the masks, making sure that we have the Plexiglas where needed cohorting. So the one 5th grade class doesn't party with another 5th grade class. And I think we're going to give our kids the best shot for classroom education.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well what about prioritizing testing? How do you stay open without regularly spot testing students and teachers?

GOVERNOR LAMONT: Well, what testing does is tells you whether or not you are infected, as you pointed out in the previous shot, you know, many people are asymptomatic and contagious before they are tested. So we have to watch out for that. We have 160 testing centers. Any teacher that wants to go get a free test, recommending maybe some of them do that before the start of the school year.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK, so it's not currently part of the plan, but you're saying the state has access to tests. I want to ask you, though, about what something your office pointed out to us, which is that 143,000 kids just simply did not log on for remote learning back in the spring in March, April, and May. Do you know how much damage was done? And if you have to shut down and go remote again, how do you avoid these kids getting lost?

GOVERNOR LAMONT: I think- I do not want a lost year, and when everybody says, let's not go back to school until it's perfectly safe, until we have a vaccine, until one hundred percent of the people are vaccinated, I worry that could be a lost year of education. But in the meantime, we do need a backup plan. So we've bought 100,000 chrome books. We're getting them installed in every kid's home that doesn't feel comfortable getting back to school. The teachers homes, if they don't feel comfortable getting back, expanded Wi-Fi so those kids can connect at least with their classmates over Zoom.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But what about those kids who just didn't log on at all in the spring?

GOVERNOR LAMONT: It's a tragedy. We made it available to everybody we could, but again, requires parental supervision, requires a lot of effort to make sure everybody logs in. Right now, we're going to have a telephone back up, better coordination, I think, with parents. But it's by no means perfect.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The president, as you know, announced these executive actions yesterday after Congress didn't come to an agreement. And his announcement calls for states to provide one hundred dollars a week for every unemployed person in their state. On top of what he says they're going to redirect from FEMA to make up for the expired federal boost. Does Connecticut have that funding to kick in?

GOVERNOR LAMONT: Look, that would cost us about $500 million dollars between now and the end of the year. I could take that money from testing. I don't think that's a great idea. I could take that money from, you know, mass disinfecting for our schools. I don't think that's a great idea. In fact, I think the president's plan is not a great idea.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, how long would it even take you to get that up and running? I mean, what's going to happen to the unemployed people in your state who just saw $600 dollars a week disappear?

GOVERNOR LAMONT: Well, I mean, remember, we are continuing to provide them the state unemployment compensation--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. 

GOVERNOR LAMONT: --which is four- $450 dollars, we're talking about the extra $600 dollars that the federal government put on its sort of a bridge. They did that a few months ago until we got our economy going--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But now it's a cliff. 

GOVERNOR LAMONT:  Let's face it, our economy in Connecticut is going better than most other places. But there's still, you know, tens of thousands who can't get a job and many of them in bars and the such, there's no job available to them. So there has to be some sort of a cushion.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You spoke to the president this week, Connecticut has been hit hard. I know of my own family members about power outages largely across the state due to this tropical storm. Has COVID slowed down the response to this storm? What is- when- when are the lights going back on?

GOVERNOR LAMONT: I'd say we were hit hard by this tropical storm and we lost almost half our power across the state, and then you realize that means water treatment centers and nursing homes and a whole variety of real emergencies that have to be put out. In the meantime, we're bringing in thousands of contractors from around the region and around the country. And you're right. In the middle of a COVID pandemic, hey, I got a quarantine on people from South Carolina, please come on up and fix our wires. But we're getting people tested and we're fixing the wires. Number one safety, we've got to get electricity back on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So COVID has slowed down the response. And just to button up, I want to make sure I totally understood what you said there on unemployment. Is the bottom line for people in Connecticut that they just won't get any additional money on top of their regular state unemployment payment?

GOVERNOR LAMONT: Yeah, MARGARET, I wouldn't say COVID slowed down our response on the electric hit at all and in addition to what we're providing--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you just mentioned having to quarantine crews. 

GOVERNOR LAMONT: No, we're not quarantining them. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. 

GOVERNOR LAMONT: They are essential workers, we're getting them back up on the poles as fast as we can, essential workers. What was your other question?

MARGARET BRENNAN: I just was buttoning up what you said on unemployment. You said the president's plan is not a good one. 

GOVERNOR LAMONT: Oh, I- yeah. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you telling people that they just won't get any additional money on top of what's already being provided?

GOVERNOR LAMONT: Well, they're surely going to get additional support from the state of Connecticut. I would like to see the federal government step up, extend the unemployment up a little bit longer, let people get on their feet. What I'm doing here at the state level is in particular rent relief. I've got, you know, tens of thousands of people who fear eviction. We have an eviction moratorium. We put money in place to help them negotiate with their landlord--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. 

GOVERNOR LAMONT: --so they can start paying down their overdue to the landlord.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Governor Lamont, good luck to you. Thank you for your time. We'll be right back with Dr. Scott Gottlieb.

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