Republican leaders split over Gov. Murphy’s vaccine mandate for state workers
New Jersey’s Republican leaders are divided over Gov. Phil Murphy’s decision announced on Monday that thousands of state employees and health care workers must get the COVID-19 vaccine. If the workers are not vaccinated by Sept. 7, they will be given COVID-19 tests three times per week.
“The whole thing is a slippery slope,” says Phil Rizzo, a former Republican candidate for governor.
Rizzo says that he believes that state workers like correctional police officers working in prisons and health care workers at the state’s veterans and nursing homes should defy Murphy’s mandate.
“It's vaccine segregation. I think there's enough details out there that they're going to make life difficult for people who don't simply roll over and do what they're told,” Rizzo says.
Before and since Rizzo’s run for governor, he has struck a chord with Trump-supporting Republicans, expressing skepticism of vaccines and defiance of any vaccine mandates.
“We're about people making their own choices. If they're asking my opinion, I would say don't get it,” Rizzo says. “I'm not getting it, my wife's not getting it, our four children aren't getting it.”
But not all of New Jersey’s Republican leaders agree with Rizzo’s stance.
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“I 100% favor the vaccine,” says Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick. “I urge everyone without any reservation to get the vaccine, let me be clear.”
Bramnick says he is open to some vaccination mandates for public workers. But he says he wants the state Legislature to be consulted first through public hearings with Murphy and health experts.
“The bottom line here is that the Democrats haven't met. They haven't held hearings, and they refuse to hold hearings because they're getting away with it,” Bramnick says.
One thing Rizzo, Bramnick and Murphy agree on is this is likely just the start of vaccination requirements for state workers. For Rizzo, it means his concerns from the campaign trail are coming true.
“I’m not going to declare that I have a crystal ball. But I can see a slippery slope from a mile away,” Rizzo says.
Workers at county jails, state psychiatric facilities and rehab centers also face the vaccination requirements.