NJ lifts coronavirus vaccine-or-test rule for teachers, day care workers

US

New Jersey will no longer require unvaccinated educators and child care workers to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.

Gov. Phil Murphy issued an executive order Monday lifting the requirement for school districts and child care centers immediately, and for state contractors beginning September 1st.

“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,” Murphy said in a statement. He said his latest order is in line with recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Murphy said districts and child care centers can still maintain their own vaccination or testing policies.

“Allowing child care centers to maintain their own policies is very important,” Lynette Galante, president of NJ Child Care Association, told Gothamist. “Having that leeway to maintain our policies that we worked really hard to create is a great thing and it also helps the parents.”

Galante, who runs the Future Generation Early Learning Center in Colts Neck and Bloomfield, said she would still require all her workers to be vaccinated despite the change.

The executive orders establishing the vax-or-test requirement were passed in August 2021 for schools and in September 2021 for child care centers.

“This is a culmination of people following the science, doing the right thing, doing the hard thing at times, but it’s certainly welcome news,” said Sean Spiller, president of the New Jersey Education Association.

Like Galante, he said the flexibility for individual districts or child care centers to set policies was important.

“We’ve seen it throughout this pandemic that different parts of the state, different communities have been impacted differently than others or certain communities have higher vaccination rates, some lower,” Spiller said.

He said he was starting to hear from unvaccinated teachers that as school districts ran out of pandemic federal funds, they were asking staff to cover testing costs.

As part of Monday’s order, Murphy will also end a testing program for unvaccinated state employees next month. Workers in health care, congregate settings or correctional facilities will still need to be up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines.

New Jersey’s estimated rate of transmission Monday was .91, according to the state Department of Health. The rate is an indication of the speed of spread; when it’s less than 1.0, each person with the virus is thought to be giving it to fewer than one other person.

The state’s seven-day average for new confirmed cases as of Monday was 2,148, down 22% from a month prior. There were 981 hospitalizations as of Sunday night, about even with a month prior.

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