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August 02, 2021

New Jersey health care workers must get vaccinated or face regular COVID-19 testing

The mandate also applies to those with jobs in high-risk settings, such as nursing homes and jails

Employees at state-run and some private health care facilities in New Jersey, and other high-risk congregate settings, will be required to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 7, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.

Those who do not meet the deadline will be subjected to testing once or twice a week. High-risk congregate settings include nursing homes and the state's county jails.

A stricter mandate could be enforced, the governor said, if the state doesn't see a "significant" increase in vaccination rates among the employees who work in these jobs.

"We are ready and willing to require all staff to be vaccinated as a condition of their employment," Murphy said. "And while this policy specifically impacts the health care facilities and congregate living settings listed, there is nothing stopping any employer from implementing at least as rigorous a policy."

New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said 71% of employees at long-term care facilities in the state have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, but at some facilities the vaccination rate dips as low as 33%. There are 33 active outbreaks at New Jersey facilities, Persichilli said, up from 18 outbreaks just two weeks ago.

Neither Murphy nor Persichilli said what percentage of New Jersey's health care workers have been vaccinated against COVID-19, to date. Statewide, data shows 5.7 million residents had received at least one dose of a vaccine as of Monday, while 5.1 million people are fully vaccinated.

Murphy said this new health care worker mandate is due to the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19, which has become the most prevalent strain of the virus in the United States.

"The spread of the delta variant and its widespread impacts are no longer something we can look at casually," he said. "... And we also know that the surest way to end this pandemic is through vaccination." 

Pennsylvania has not implemented a similar mandate for its health care workers, but Penn Medicine and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia will require employees get the shots.