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Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Murphy intensifies vaccine mandate for health care, congregate living workers

Boosters will now be required with no test-out option for facility workers

By Joey Fox, January 19 2022 12:43 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy this morning unveiled a new executive order requiring all workers in the state’s health care and high-risk congregate living facilities – which include nursing homes, veterans homes, and prisons – to be vaccinated and boosted, with no test-out option. Health care workers will have until February 28 to complete their initial vaccination series or get boosted, and congregate living workers until March 30.

Previously, under a flurry of mandates Murphy implemented during the Delta variant wave of summer 2021, employees in health care and congregate living facilities were required to be vaccinated or get tested a minimum of once per week. 

The test-out option is expiring for health care workers anyways thanks to a federal mandate from the Biden administration, which was recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. But Murphy’s executive order also eliminates the option for congregate living workers, and adds booster shots to the requirements for both categories of workers.

“The science tells us it’s no longer good enough to just receive your primary series, as being boosted is necessary to protect yourself and those around you,” Murphy said.

As with many of Murphy’s previous Covid-related mandates, his announcement drew swift condemnation from state Republicans, who argued that the executive order undermined the legislature and would cause staffing shortages across the state.

“Nursing homes, group homes, and veterans homes are already struggling to find enough skilled staff to care for New Jersey’s most vulnerable residents,” State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco (R-Boonton) said in a statement. “By eliminating the testing alternative to vaccination for workers in these settings, Governor Murphy is virtually guaranteeing that residents will face a shortage of caregivers.”

But Murphy was defiant, saying that such mandates are necessary to keep the state’s workers, patients, and congregate living residents safe.

“We are no longer going to look past those who continue to put their colleagues, and even more importantly those who are their responsibility, in danger of Covid,” he said. “That has to stop.”

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