August 23, 2021
New Jersey's mandate for health care workers to be vaccinated or subject to COVID-19 testing is now expanding to include all school teachers and state employees.
All pre-K through 12th grade teachers and school staff will need to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday. Those who choose to opt out of the mandate will need to undergo regular COVID-19 testing at least once or twice per week.
The COVID-19 vaccine or test mandate applies to both full-time and part-time employees at all pre-K through 12th grade schools in New Jersey.
All state employees also will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-October, or will be subject to testing.
New Jersey's vaccine or test requirement encompasses the New Jersey State Police, state agencies and authorities and public colleges and universities.
Murphy expressed confidence that meeting this mandate shouldn't be a challenge, saying that most school teachers and staff across the state are already fully vaccinated. He reiterated that getting all teachers and staff fully vaccinated by October will allow for a smooth return to full time, in-person learning over the coming weeks.
"As the school year rapidly approaches, we're continuing to do all we can to ensure as safe a start as possible," Murphy said. "We know that strong masking and vaccination protocols, in tandem with other safety measures, are our best consolidated tool for keeping our schools open for full-time, in-person instruction and our educational communities safe."
The New Jersey Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, has thrown its support behind a COVID-19 vaccine or test mandate for its members. The teachers union also has endorsed Murphy for a second term as governor.
The decision to mandate vaccinations for all teachers and state employees comes as COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations continue to climb in New Jersey.
New Jersey reported 1,759 new COVID-19 infections Monday, according to the statewide dashboard. That's an 83% increase in daily coronavirus case numbers since the end of May. The state recorded 946 new COVID-19 hospitalizations Monday, which is a roughly a 72% jump since early July. New Jersey's rate of COVID-19 transmission sits at 1.23, while the state's positivity rate is more than 5%.
Additionally, every county in South Jersey is currently experiencing high levels of COVID-19 transmission, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
New Jersey's health care workers are already required to be vaccinated by Sept. 7 or face regular COVID-19 testing. The state's mandate also covers high-risk congregate settings like nursing homes and prisons.
New Jersey schools are still expected to move full speed ahead with full-time, in-person instruction this academic year. Murphy said in May that all school districts would be required to reopen for full-time, in-person learning this fall. The executive order signed last summer that allowed school districts to provide remote learning options amid the COVID-19 pandemic expired at the end of last school year.
All K-12 students, teachers and staff, regardless of their vaccination status, will be required to wear masks in school this fall as the highly-contagious delta variant continues to spread across the state and no COVID-19 vaccines have been authorized yet for children ages 11 and under.
The state's latest vaccination mandate came just hours after Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine was granted full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. More than 11.3 million COVID-19 vaccines doses have been administered so far in New Jersey. More than 5.4 million residents are fully vaccinated.