Gov. Murphy: New Jersey to require COVID shot for teachers, state workers

New Jersey is joining a small but growing list of places to require teachers and state workers to get COVID-19 vaccinations or undergo regular testing.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced the new mandate during a news conference Monday. He says that state employees and teachers of pre-kindergarten through 12th grade must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or else get COVID-19 testing once or twice a week. He says that it is necessary to protect the state’s students.
“As the school year rapidly approaches, we are going to continue doing all that we can to ensure as safe a start to the school year as possible. We know that strong masking and vaccination protocols, in tandem with other safety measures are our best consolidated tool for keeping our schools open for full-time, in person instruction and for keeping our education communities safe.,” Murphy said.
Teachers are not the only ones impacted by the governor’s order. All school employees will also need to be vaccinated, including staff members. This applies to all public, private, charter and parochial schools.
State health officials say the vaccination rates among educators are high, and they don’t believe enforcing the mandate will be difficult. They also say it won’t skew the state’s positivity rates because more testing is always better.
New Jersey Education Association leaders say that they support the governor’s mandate.
"For months now, NJEA has strongly supported and publicly promoted vaccination for all eligible individuals…Public health experts agree on the importance of widespread vaccination. That is why we strongly agree that Gov. Murphy's executive order is appropriate and responsible under current conditions,” union leaders said in a statement.
Nearly 3,000 New Jersey state troopers will also be required to be vaccinated.
"Just like all other workplace policies, if there are violations, there are certainly consequences,” said acting Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan.
Jack Ciattarelli, Murphy’s Republican opponent in the upcoming election, criticized the governor’s plan. He says that Murphy and the NJEA carved out a better deal than the school mask mandate for students.
While Murphy did not refer to his opponent by name, he had words for those who think children are not impacted by the virus.
“Some continue to mistakenly and dangerously grasp at the lie that kids can't get COVID, or that they can't spread COVID. Neither of that is true,” Murphy said.
New Jersey joins California, Connecticut and Washington in requiring teachers both to be vaccinated and wear masks. New York City on Monday mandated vaccinations for teachers.
The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.