New Jersey mandates COVID-19 vaccine at some state, private health facilities

Workers at New Jersey’s state-run and some private health care facilities and high-risk congregate-living centers must get a COVID-19 vaccine or undergo regular testing for the virus.
Gov. Phil Murphy made the announcement at his coronavirus briefing on Monday. He says the change would likely affect “many thousands” of workers, but couldn’t specify how many. Workers must get the shot by Sept. 7 or agree to get a weekly COVID-19 test.
The mandate is for health care workers at specific locations, including University Hospital in Newark, Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home, Paramus Veterans Home, and state and county correctional facilities. The goal is to boost vaccinations and stop any potential surge.
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“The pool of the most vulnerable and exposed shrinks every day when we put up 8,000, 10,000, 12,000 new first-dose people,” Murphy said.
Also on the list is private long-term and assisted care facilities, where overall, 71% of their employees are vaccinated. But some facilities are still as low as 33%.
University Hospital has had the mandate in place before the governor’s announcement. The deadline for a vaccine shot at that hospital was on Monday.
“Well over 96% are vaccinated,” says hospital president Dr. Shereef Elnahal. “That means we have reached herd immunity for our hospital and campus.”
Elnahal says he implemented the mandate one month ago, when only 55% had the shot. This is happening because the delta variant is spreading among the unvaccinated and the numbers reflect the change.
New Jersey has reported 937 new COVID-19 cases and a rate of transmission at 1.43. There are 540 people hospitalized with the virus, 95 of which are in intensive care.
"Our health care workers have been through so much trauma, they do not want another surge,” says Debbie White, president of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees union.
White represents 14,000 health care workers. She says she fully supports the mandate to stop any surge in the works. She says she has a message for people working in hospitals and the public at large.
“We are appealing to the public – Put your mask back on, social distance, avoid crowds, and remember hand washing,” White says.
Because the delta variant can transmit among the vaccinated, the state Department of Health is suggesting that everyone wear a mask indoors when in public.
The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.