N.J. to require workers in certain health facilities and high-risk congregate settings to be vaccinated (or get weekly testing)

Murphy hints more steps could be coming: ‘To be clear — this standard is the absolute floor’

All workers in certain state and private health care facilities and high-risk congregate settings will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or be subject to COVID-19 testing at minimum one to two times per week, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday.

Murphy, speaking at his now-weekly COVID-19 briefing, said workers in health care facilities could see more restrictions or mandates, too.

“To be clear — this standard is the absolute floor,” he said. “We are reviewing all available resources to set aggressive testing standards as quickly as possible in the state’s high-risk settings. And to be clear, we retain the ability and authority to go further if we do not see significant increases in vaccination rates within this worker population.”

Murphy said the new mandates come for two reasons:

  • The Delta variant is proving to be highly contagious and is the caused of increased numbers in New Jersey and around the country;
  • All statistics continue to show COVID-19 has become a pandemic of the unvaccinated — and that getting vaccinated is the best defense against the virus.

“While reaching our statewide vaccination goal has so far dampened the impact of the Delta variant in New Jersey, some of our most vulnerable populations remain at risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19 primarily due to exposure to unvaccinated individuals,” he said.

“We are taking this step today because it has been proven time and time again that vaccines save lives and are our way out of this pandemic. Individuals in health care facilities should have confidence in their caretakers, and this measure will help ensure peace of mind for those in higher-risk settings. And we are prepared to consider additional measures if we do not see a satisfactory increase in vaccination uptake in those settings as this new requirement is put into effect.”

Health care facilities and other settings covered by the requirement will have until Sept. 7 for all employees to come into full compliance with the vaccine mandate, administration officials said. At that time, if workers in the facility/setting have not demonstrated that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the entity will be required to have a plan in place to begin a testing program for those workers.

The Governor’s Office said this requirement will not alter any entity’s existing stated policy requiring employees to be fully vaccinated as a condition of employment without a testing alternative. The administration will work in collaboration with union and labor partners ahead of the vaccine-requirement deadline and private-sector employers are encouraged to similarly work with labor partners as they implement their own vaccination and testing policies.

Murphy said the state will pursue an aggressive testing cadence for settings of particular concern under its purview, including the Veterans’ Homes overseen by the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. They are committed to testing unvaccinated workers three times per week. Private facilities are strongly encouraged to consider instituting requirements above and beyond the baseline that will be required by the state.

Impacted state settings include:

  • 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.

Impacted 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.

“Vaccination is the best tool we have to end this pandemic,” Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said. “None of us would want our vulnerable loved ones put at further risk due to their caregiver or health care provider. Ensuring these individuals are fully vaccinated or have been tested will help protect those who live in these congregate settings or need hospital care.”