New Jersy will now require COVID vaccines

New Jersy will now require COVID vaccines for workers in health care

New Jersy will now require COVID vaccines for workers in health care, long-term care, prisons. New Jersey will require all workers in certain state and private health-care and high-risk congregate settings be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or be subject to repeated testing in an effort to protect vulnerable residents as the delta variant drives upticks in statewide cases and hospitalizations, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday.

Employees in those settings, including long-term care facilities, jails, and state prisons, have until Sept. 7 for all employees to comply. Employees that don’t comply will be tested for the coronavirus at least once or twice a week.

“The standard is the absolute floor,” Murphy said during his latest COVID-19 briefing in Trenton. “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.”

The state settings are:

Ancora Psychiatric Hospital
Ann Klein Forensic Center
Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital
Trenton Psychiatric Hospital
Paramus Veterans Memorial Home
Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home
Vineland Veterans Memorial Home
Developmental Centers
University Hospital
State correctional facilities
Juvenile Justice Commission Facilities

The private facility settings include but are not limited to:

Long-term care and assisted-living facilities
County jails
Acute-care hospitals and specialty hospitals
Short-term and post-acute in-patient rehabs
Licensed behavioral health facilities
Home health agencies

Asked Monday whether the state will go a step further and mandate all state workers to get vaccinated, Murphy said: “We’re gonna start with the most vulnerable and then we’ll see how that goes.”

Murphy said the move would affect “many thousands” of employees, though he did not have an exact number.

He also said the state is also encouraging private health-care and high-risk settings to implement similar policies.

“The spread of the delta variant and its widespread impacts are no longer something that we can look at casually,” the governor said. “Almost every day we are receiving some new research note that shows this variant to be even more contagious and more deadly than previously thought. We also know that the surest way to end this pandemic is through vaccination.”

Some unions have said they believe vaccine mandates should be negotiated in collective bargaining.

In the wake of Monday’s announcement, AFSCME New Jersey Council 63 — which represents 6,000 state workers — said they encourage their members to “get vaccinated as soon as possible” and that Murphy’s office agreed Monday morning to “bargain over the impact of mandating the vaccine or weekly testing for the state workers that we represent.”

“We applaud their willingness to negotiate the impact of this policy and we look forward to working together to find a resolution that makes sense for the state as well as AFSCME members,” the union added.

Murphy’s decision comes four days after President Joe Biden announced Thursday that all federal workers must show they’ve been vaccinated or face weekly testing and other protocols. New York City and California are also requiring government workers to be vaccinated.

New Jersey’s move doesn’t quite go that far. It’s unclear how many employees this would affect. More than 5.2 million people who live, work, or study in the Garden State have been fully vaccinated.

New Jersey already has one of the nation’s highest coronavirus vaccination rates, with more than 70% of its eligible population fully inoculated, and the state’s COVID-19 numbers remain far below the pandemic’s peaks, with daily deaths continuously in the single digits.

But the state’s daily cases and hospitalizations have steadily increased over the last month, and about 4 million residents remain unvaccinated.

COVID-19 numbers are growing across the country as the delta variant spreads. Officials say unvaccinated people remain the most at risk. They say vaccinated people can still catch the virus and pass it to others, though vaccines are proving to be effective, preventing severe cases and hospitalizations, even against the variant.

CORONAVIRUS RESOURCES: Live map tracker | Newsletter | Homepage

New Jersey was one of the nation’s earliest COVID-19 hotspots in spring 2020, with the virus spreading rapidly through long-term care facilities. At least 8,065 of the state’s coronavirus deaths have been among residents and staff members at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, according to state data.

State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said Monday that outbreaks in those facilities have “dropped dramatically” since the winter but have been rising again lately. There are currently outbreaks in 38 facilities, compared to 18 two weeks ago, Persichilli said.

She called Monday’s move an “important step to reduce the risk to nursing home residents and vulnerable residents overall.”

In an effort to fight the delta variant, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that it’s recommending all people, including the fully vaccinated, wear masks indoors again in public places with “high” or “substantial” coronavirus transmission rates in the country. All but one New Jersey county currently qualifies as of Monday.

Murphy responded by issuing a statement last week saying all people in New Jersey are “strongly encouraged” — but not required — to wear masks indoors in settings where there is “increased risk” of catching the virus. The governor, though, has said he’s open to another mandate if numbers got worse.

Two lucky ticket holders will split Saturday’s $1,329,672 Jersey Cash 5 lottery jackpot.

The tickets — worth $664,836 each — were sold at Wegmans on Route 202 in Bridgewater and 7-Eleven on Route 9 in the Lanoka Harbor section of Lacey, New Jersey Lottery officials said Monday.

Saturday’s winning numbers were: 9, 13, 26, 30, and 38. The XTRA number was: 2.

The jackpot climbed above $1.3 million after eight daily drawings were held without a ticket matching all five numbers.

Monday’s top prize is an estimated $162,000 after no one hit the $100,000 jackpot Sunday.

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