The governor said he expected to eventually expand the requirement to workers in other sectors, such as transit, and indicated he could decide to mandate vaccination for health-care workers if the numbers do not improve after Sept. 7, when the new requirement goes into effect. This announcement comes as many companies including Disney and Walmart announced that all their workers must be be vaccinated.
It will apply to all staff who enter certain health-care or congregate-living locations, including long-term care homes and assisted living facilities, state correctional and juvenile justice facilities, county jails, behavioral health facilities, acute-care and specialty hospitals, state veterans homes, and inpatient rehabs.
“To be clear, we retain the ability and the authority to go further if we do not see significant increase in vaccination within this worker population,” Murphy said . “If we do not see significant increases in vaccination rates among the employees in these settings, we are ready and willing to require all staff to be vaccinated as a condition of their employment.”
Unlike New York and California, New Jersey has not mandated vaccination for all state employees but the governor did not rule it out. He said state health officials wanted to start with the health-care and assisted living industries.
“None of us would want our vulnerable loved ones put in danger due to their caregiver or health-care provider,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “Our health-care providers, given what they experienced over the past 18 months, do not want to expose those they care for to any unnecessary risk.”Philly region seeing a ‘substantial’ spread of COVID-19, expanding the area where indoor masks are recommended
Pennsylvania has not implemented any mandates, though local health systems such as Penn Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia will soon require vaccinations for most employees. Asked whether the state Department of Health was considering any such measures, a spokesperson said Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration “is open to considering all strategies to increase vaccination rates.”
In New Jersey, the vaccination rate among all long-term care facility employees has risen to 71%, Persichilli said, but in some care homes the rate is as low as 33%.
Overall, nearly 58% of all New Jerseyans are fully vaccinated, and two-thirds have had at least one dose.
The state will work with employers affected by the requirement to determine the frequency and location of testing for unvaccinated employees, which should be done during work hours, Murphy said. Employees must be tested at least once or twice a week.
Private-sector employers not included in the state’s mandate can require testing or vaccination for their employees.
Murphy said his administration’s conversations with workers’ unions had been constructive, adding, “Folks want to do the right thing.”
Not all supported his move. William Sullivan, president of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 105, which represents state correctional officers who work in juvenile justice facilities and will fall under the new mandate, said his members wouldn’t support a vaccination requirement but are already undergoing regular testing.
“We believe as a union that officers have their right to choose, and if they choose not to get the vaccination that’s their choice, and it shouldn’t be forced,” said Sullivan.
Assemblyman Sean Kean commented:
Please know that I believe people should have the right to exercise their personal choice concerning healthcare matters. I have opposed legislation in some cases that required mandatory vaccinations and bills that would have changed exemptions for mandatory vaccinations. I believe that an individual should make an informed choice when deciding if they should receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
That said, I have been informed that RWJBarnabas Health system that operates both Monmouth Medical Center and the Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus is accepting religious and medical exemptions from employees.
I understand your concern for employees who are subject to vaccine mandates, and I will certainly take your views into consideration should any related legislation come before the full General Assembly for a vote.
Thank you for emailing me regarding this important issue. Please feel free to contact me further on this or any other matter.
Sean T. Kean
Assemblyman, 30th District