Every healthcare worker in private and public healthcare facilities in New Jersey, as well as those who work in state and county jails, will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by September 7, or get tested once or twice a week for the coronavirus, Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Monday.
The mandate applies not only to employees of public establishments, such as veterans’ homes, mental hospitals and development centers, but also to private hospitals, retirement homes and behavioral health care facilities.
âThis mandate is the word,â Murphy said. âIf we do not see a significant increase in vaccination rates among employees in these settings, we are ready and willing to demand that all staff be vaccinated as a condition of their employment. “
The deadline will be enforced without “exceptions or extensions,” he said.
Murphy’s goal is to vaccinate 80-85% of the New Jersey population, due to the extremely high transmission rate of the delta variant of the coronavirus.
âThe delta variant is more contagious and deadly than previously thought,â he said.
With the delta variant now dominant in the state, new COVID cases and hospitalizations have increased rapidly. All counties except Warren are now in the red or orange zone with high or substantial transmission of the virus, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And epidemics in long-term care facilities have increased.
Counties with significant sprawl:COVID is spreading rapidly throughout almost all of NJ. The CDC recommends masks in these counties
Of particular concern is the increase in the number of children hospitalized with COVID-19, State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said.
Nineteen children – 13 with positive test results and six awaiting test results – are currently among 540 people hospitalized statewide. This is the highest number of hospitalized patients since the beginning of May. The vast majority are unvaccinated, Murphy said.
COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes and assisted living facilities more than doubled in two weeks, from 18 to 38, with 98 residents infected, Persichilli said. And while an average of 71% of nursing home workers are vaccinated, in some facilities the rates are as low as 33%.
âNone of us would want our loved ones to be endangered by a health care provider,â said Persichilli, and those who care for sick patients don’t want to endanger the health of their patients either.
The governor’s announcement applies to private acute care hospitals, specialty hospitals, long-term care and assisted living facilities, licensed behavioral health facilities, home health agencies, health centers. short-term and post-acute inpatient rehabilitation and county corrections. facilities.
Public facilities whose employees must be vaccinated or undergo at least one or two COVID tests per week are the state’s four mental hospitals, Ancora, Ann Klein, Greystone and Trenton; the three state-run veterans’ homes in Paramus, Menlo Park and Vineland; juvenile justice commission establishments and state penitentiaries.
The University Hospital, Newark’s Public Medical Center, already has a vaccine requirement for employees with no opt-out option for testing.
âThe discussions with the unions have been very constructive,â Murphy said. The inclusion of a testing regime for those who choose not to be vaccinated should ease opposition from unions, he said.
But AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said even a term with a weekly testing regime needs to be negotiated. Its 20,000 members in the state include employees of state veterans’ homes and mental hospitals.
“The governor’s office agreed this morning to negotiate the impact of the imposition of the vaccine or of the weekly tests for the state agents that we represent,” the union said in a statement. “We look forward to working together to find a resolution that makes sense for the state as well as for the members of AFSCME.”
The state’s largest union of healthcare workers, medical professionals and paramedics, said it “supports the governor’s decision to create a path to increase immunization rates while imposing tests routine to those who cannot be vaccinated â.
The 14,000-member union “will continue to discuss the effects of the deployment with employers,” said Debbie White, its president.
The newly announced mandate applies to healthcare and assembly places, but private employers are free to institute even stricter vaccine requirements – with or without offering the option of frequent testing for those who refuse, Murphy said. .
Private health systems and long-term care companies employing some 100,000 people in New Jersey have already imposed mandates, with deadlines this fall. The governor’s announcement will advance their schedule.
RWJBarnabas, the first of the state’s major healthcare employers to require vaccines for supervisors and above, laid off six employees after they had not received a vaccine by the deadline. Now it has extended its requirement to all 35,000 employees.
Other facilities requiring vaccination for employees include CareOne, a chain of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, Hackensack Meridian Health, Virtua Health, St. Joseph’s Health, and Valley Health.
Currently, a quarter of the vaccine-eligible population in the state is still unvaccinated, according to the state health ministry. The vaccination rate for the general population, including children who are not eligible for currently licensed vaccines, is 58.5%, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Young people are the least likely to be vaccinated, nationally and in New Jersey.
The reasons vary, but national polls show that 6% of the population will be vaccinated “only if necessary”. People between the ages of 18 and 29 and those without a college education are more likely than others to express this attitude.
Another 10% have a âwait-and-see attitudeâ towards vaccines. Blacks, Hispanics and those under 30 are more likely to fall into this category. And 14% say they “definitely won’t get” a vaccine no matter what. Republicans and those 30 to 49 are more likely to say so.
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Children under 12 are not yet eligible for the shots. Pfizer-BioNTech, maker of the only vaccine currently licensed for ages 12 to 16, said it intends to ask regulators this fall to extend that permission to young children.
Murphy’s action followed vaccination mandates announced last week by President Joe Biden, New York and California Governors, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Vaccination mandates for health care workers are not new. A state law that came into effect last year requires healthcare workers to be vaccinated against the flu, unless they have a medical exemption.
Lindy Washburn is a senior health care reporter for NorthJersey.com. To stay abreast of the impact of changes in the medical world on you and your family’s health, please register or activate your digital account today.