COVID vaccine mandate for NJ teachers, state workers takes effect

New Jersey has about 130,000 public school teachers, 1.3 million public school students and an estimated 70,000 state workers.
TRENTON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- New Jersey's vaccine mandate for school staff and state workers took effect on Monday.

The mandate requires pre-K through 12th-grade teachers and staff and state employees to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or get COVID-19 testing once or twice a week.

The vaccine mandate for school personnel includes all public, private and parochial preschool programs, along with elementary and secondary schools including charter and Renaissance schools.

The order also applies to both full-time and part-time employees.

Along with teachers, the order also includes administrators, educational support professionals, those providing food, custodial or administrative support services, and substitute teachers - whether employed directly by a school or otherwise contracted - and other school employees.

State employees include those at state agencies, authorities and public colleges and universities.

But in some school districts the testing portion of the mandate has been delayed because of an issue with testing vendors.

"We did have a vendor issue," said Gov. Phil Murphy during Monday's COVID-19 briefing in Trenton. "My guess is it's going to take the next few weeks to sort that out."

According to a spokesperson for the governor, 386 New Jersey school districts have been given "limited flexibility" with the testing portion of the vaccinate or test policy.

For those districts waiting on a testing vendor, they must begin testing as soon as possible.

"If I get a vaccine and I'm protecting your child, I would like for you to get a vaccine to protect my child," said Carol of Robbinsville, who is in favor of the mandate.

But those who oppose the mandate protested in Trenton on Monday.

"I do recommend it for older people, people who are compromised. But I don't think it should be for everybody and I certainly don't want to see it forced on our kids," said Jessica Arroyo, a healthcare worker from Bordentown, who does not want to be vaccinated because of a heart condition.

"I think it should be your own personal choice," said Tonja Goins of Middletown. "The government should not have sovereignty over your body."

Murphy, a Democrat running for reelection this year, announced the new mandate during an August news conference.

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All school personnel and state workers in New Jersey will have to be vaccinated or undergo regular testing.

New Jersey has about 130,000 public school teachers, 1.3 million public school students and an estimated 70,000 state workers.

"Scientific data shows that vaccination and testing requirements, coupled with strong masking policies, are the best tools for keeping our schools and communities safe for in-person activities," Murphy said during the August news conference.

The state's biggest teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association, supported the order.

Vaccine Deadline for Child Care Workers

In September, Murphy said workers at child care facilities must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1 under an executive order, or have regular COVID-19 tests administered. That would mean a second dose must have been received by Oct. 17.

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Child care workers and facility employees in New Jersey will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or face weekly testing.

Meanwhile, all employees, visitors, students and children in a child care facility ages two and over must wear masks indoors, with limited exceptions. That order went into effect on Sept. 24.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends masks for those 2 and older. It says children under 2 should not wear masks.

"We appreciate that it may be difficult to keep very young kids in masks for the majority of the day, but we are looking for these settings to provide kids with as much support as necessary to ensure the safest possible environment," Murphy said.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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