TRENTON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order on Monday lifting the requirement that unvaccinated workers in school districts and child care settings, as well as state contractors, undergo routine COVID-19 testing.
The change will apply to school districts and child care settings immediately, and to state contractors as of September 1, he said.
The ending of the testing mandate comes after recent updates to COVID-19 guidelines from the CDC in advance of the upcoming school year.
"Today's executive order follows guidance from public health officials at the CDC regarding responsible steps states can take as we continue to adjust to the endemic reality of COVID-19," Murphy said. "With children as young as 6 months old now eligible for vaccines and millions of New Jerseyans vaccinated and boosted, more of our residents are safe from severe illness due to COVID-19. As always, I encourage everyone to stay up-to-date on their vaccination and take other precautions as necessary to protect themselves and their loved ones from this virus."
Sean M. Spiller, the president of the New Jersey Education Association, says this is a major win.
"We are at a moment where we can ease those restrictions and people can still report safely to work and educate our kids in person. That's what we've wanted from the start, so it's great news for us today," said Spiller.
But he also says this is big in terms of being able to retain and recruit new teachers.
He adds it's been very difficult to fill the need for educators across the state and easing any regulation or restriction may help.
"Whatever that looks like. We've got to make sure people want to come into this profession and stay there, and right now we're not seeing enough of them that do want to come in," said Miller.
Mary Ann Bell, the superintendent of Burlington Township Schools, echoed the same sentiment.
"The mandated testing resulted in some staff resigning to avoid the testing. We are pleased to see this change and looking forward to the start of a new school year with new beginnings and another step towards normalcy," Bell said.
Some parents are mixed over the change.
Keshia Thomas of Cherry Hill says it's better to be safe than sorry.
"They've done all this stuff and have all these protocols going on. It doesn't make any sense. Why stop?" said Thomas.
While Boris Zavertailo said at this point it's time to get back to normal.
"It's everybody's choice. We cannot make anybody go and get something done unless they feel like doing it," said Zavertailo.
As of June 17, 2022, anyone aged 6 months or older is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
As of Monday, more than 18.4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in New Jersey, with more than 1.9 million doses having been administered to children under the age of 18.
The executive order lifts the testing requirements put into place for school districts, child care settings, and state contractors via previous executive orders.
Nothing in the new executive order prevents these settings from maintaining a vaccination or testing policy as they see fit going forward.
Schools and child care facilities will still be required to report vaccination and testing data to the Department of Health to allow the state to continue to monitor COVID-19 and make data-driven decisions to keep residents safe.
Covered workers in congregate care, health care, and correctional facility settings will still be required to be up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccinations, including the first booster dose, as per prior executive orders.
Separate from the new executive order, the New Jersey state employee testing program will also come to an end on September 1.