New Jersey makes COVID-19 vaccine mandatory in some public and private health facilities

Workers in New Jersey’s public facilities and some private health care facilities and high-risk congregate living centers should get vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo regular testing for the virus.

Governor Phil Murphy made the announcement during his coronavirus briefing on Monday. He says the change would likely affect “several thousand” workers, but could not specify how many. Workers must be vaccinated by September 7 or agree to take a weekly COVID-19 test.

The warrant is for healthcare workers in specific locations, including Newark University Hospital, Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home, Paramus Veterans Home, and state and county correctional facilities. The aim is to boost vaccinations and stop any potential flare-ups.

“The pool of most vulnerable and most exposed people is shrinking every day as we install 8,000, 10,000, 12,000 new people on the first dose,” Murphy said.

Also on the list are private long-term and assisted care facilities, where, overall, 71% of their employees are vaccinated. But some installations are still as low as 33%.

University Hospital had the mandate in place prior to the governor’s announcement. The deadline for a vaccine shot at this hospital was Monday.

“Well over 96% are vaccinated,” says hospital president Dr Shereef Elnahal. “This means we have achieved herd immunity for our hospital and our campus.”

Elnahal says he implemented the mandate a month ago, when only 55% had the vaccine. This happens because the delta variant is spreading among the unvaccinated and the numbers reflect the change.

New Jersey reported 937 new cases of COVID-19 and a transmission rate of 1.43. There are 540 people in hospital with the virus, 95 of whom are in intensive care.

“Our health care workers have been through so much trauma that they don’t want another flare-up,” says Debbie White, president of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees Union.

White represents 14,000 healthcare workers. She says she fully supports the mandate to stop any push in the works. She says she has a message for people working in hospitals and the general public.

“We are appealing to the public – Put your mask back on, socially distance, avoid crowds and remember to wash your hands,” White says.

Because the delta variant can be transmitted among those vaccinated, the state Department of Health suggests that everyone wear a mask indoors when out in public.

The Associated Press News Services contributed to this report.

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