Today is the day New Jersey teachers must be vaccinated, state workers return to work

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TRENTON, NJ – If you work in one of New Jersey’s public schools or you’re one of the tens of thousands of state workers finally returning to the office after a year and half long break, you need to be vaccinated or be tested at least once per week, starting today.

The order, executed by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy requires all state workers, public school teachers and school staff to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19. If not, you must show a negative COVID-19 test at least once, but up to twice per week.

All K-12 teachers, public universities and workers at all state offices are affected by this order which takes effect today.

The order adds to the growing list of federal employees, healthcare workers, prison workers and long-term care facility workers who are now required to show proof of vaccination for continued employment.

New Jersey Department of Children & Families Commissioner Christina Norbert said the governor’s mandate for teachers is to protect children under 12 where there is no vaccine available currently.

“We’re following CDC recommendations. Children under the age of 12 cannot be vaccinated in the state; we know that. We need to use the tools that are available to us to help mitigate spread, to help protect those children and the teachers and their family members, because they’re coming in and out of the schools,” she said. “We have been communicating with the childcare providers across the state and with the various trade organizations, answering questions that they have, working to reduce the stress that is related to enforcement.”

“Scientific data shows that vaccination and testing requirements, coupled with strong masking policies, are the best tools for keeping our schools and communities safe for in-person activities,” said Governor Murphy. “As the school year rapidly approaches, my Administration is continuing to do all that we can to ensure a safe, full-time, in-person learning environment for our students, many of whom are not yet eligible for vaccination. Additionally, it is critically important to extend our vaccination and testing requirement to our State employees, so that they can continue to safely provide vital government services for the benefit of all New Jerseyans. We will continue to work collaboratively with school officials, teachers unions, and public-sector union partners over the next several weeks as this new requirement goes into effect.”

All preschool to Grade 12 settings will have until October 18, 2021 to come into full compliance with the vaccine or testing requirement. At that time, if a worker has not submitted proof that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the worker will be required to submit to a minimum once to twice weekly testing. Regardless of whether the setting is providing workers with on-site access to testing or requiring workers to submit proof of a COVID-19 test, both antigen and molecular tests will be acceptable to fulfill the requirements of the Order.  

Workers are considered “fully vaccinated” for COVID-19 two weeks or more after they have received the second dose in a two-dose series or two weeks or more after they have received a single-dose vaccine. Individuals will only be considered fully vaccinated when they have received a COVID-19 vaccine that is currently authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization, or that are approved for use by the same. Workers for whom vaccination status is unknown or who have not provided sufficient proof of document, must be considered unvaccinated for purposes of this Order.   

This Order will not impact a school’s ability to impose more stringent vaccination or testing requirements on workers, including any requirement for more frequent testing, for testing of both vaccinated and unvaccinated staff, and for mandatory vaccinations without a testing alternative.

Public, private, and parochial preschool programs, elementary, and secondary school settings have access to multiple sources of funding to address costs associated with worker vaccination efforts and diagnostic testing, including three rounds of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds and Emergency Assistance for Nonpublic Schools (EANS) within the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds. The State will continue to work closely with these pre-K to 12 settings to successfully implement the requirements of the Order.