Governor Murphy drops testing mandate for unvaccinated teachers, state workers
Executive order will also lift the testing mandate for child care workers
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have pushed for Murphy to drop the vaccinate-or-test requirement. (Edwin J. Torres/NJ Governor’s Office)
The coronavirus testing mandate for unvaccinated teachers, school employees, state contractors, and child care workers is ending after Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order Monday.
Murphy’s signature on the order ends a 2021 state mandate for the workers to be either vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo regular tests for the virus.
The mandate lifts immediately for all child care workers and school employees. On Sept. 1, the test-or-vaccinate mandate will lift for unvaccinated state workers and state contractors. That includes workers at public colleges and universities.
“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. “As always, I encourage everyone to stay up-to-date on their vaccination and take other precautions as necessary to protect themselves and their loved ones from this virus.”
The change comes on the heels of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention loosening federal COVID-19 guidelines. The changes, announced Thursday, include ending some quarantine protocols and testing recommendations. People no longer need to quarantine if they have close contact with someone who tests positive for the virus, the agency said.
For months, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for Murphy to drop the mandate to get vaccinated or be tested. Republicans, including Sen. Kristin Corrado of Passaic, said they are pleased the governor is listening.
“Better late than never,” she said on Twitter.
Sen. Michael Testa (R-Cumberland) called it a “victory for science and personal freedoms, and welcome news for teachers who have one less worry as they prepare to go back to school in the coming weeks.”
Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth) said on Saturday he was advocating for the governor’s office to lift the testing mandate.
All schools and businesses can still put vaccine, testing, masking, and social distancing requirements in place. And schools and child care centers will continue reporting vaccine and testing data to the state Department of Health.
Sean Spiller, president of the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union, called Murphy’s executive order “another encouraging step back toward normalcy.”
“We will continue to advocate for policies that keep students and staff safe as we return to school buildings for another school year,” he said in a statement.
Since March 2020, when the state had its first diagnosed case of the coronavirus, more than 34,000 people have died from COVID-19, and 2.6 million have tested positive, according to state data.
A vaccine and booster mandate remains in place for workers in health care, correctional facilities, and other congregant settings like nursing homes, Murphy’s office said.
An earlier version of this story should have said the vaccine-or-test mandate went into effect in 2021.
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