(The Center Square) – Gov. Phil Murphy issued an executive order mandating up-to-date COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters for workers at health care facilities and high-risk congregate settings.
The order eliminates an option for those workers to submit negative COVID tests instead of receiving the vaccine. Workers who do not comply with the requirement, which aligns with a mandate from President Joe Biden, could be fired from their jobs, Murphy said.
Under the new mandate, unvaccinated health care workers have until Jan. 27 to receive their first vaccine dose and Feb. 28 for their second. Unvaccinated workers in high-risk congregate settings have until Feb. 28 to receive their first jab and March 30 for their second.
“We are no longer going to look past those who continue to put their colleagues, and perhaps I think even more importantly, those who are their responsibility in danger of COVID,” Murphy, a Democrat, said during a visit to a federal testing site at Stockton University. “That has to stop.”
Additionally, health care workers have until Feb. 28 to receive the booster, while high-risk congregate workers have until March 30 to receive it. Workers who aren’t eligible to receive the booster until after the mandated date shave three weeks from their booster eligibility date to receive the additional dose.
The governor said workers can seek an exemption for medical reasons or “deeply held religious beliefs.”
Republicans quickly pounced on the news, saying group homes and long-term care facilities will see a staffing crisis due to the new mandate.
“Doctors, nurses, and other medical caregivers have been fighting this fight against COVID-19 since the very beginning,” state Sen. Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen, said in a news release. “After nearly two years, they’re tired, they’re burnt out, and they’re ready for a break.
“Instead of giving them extra support, they’re getting another new mandate from Governor Murphy that will further thin their ranks and increase the workload of those who remain,” Schepisi added. “It doesn’t make any sense and it certainly won’t be good for patients.”
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