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Gov. Murphy institutes vaccination or testing requirement for preschool to Grade 12 personnel

Gov. Phil Murphy has signed Executive Order No. 253 which requires all preschool to Grade 12 school personnel to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18 or to be subject to COVID-19 testing at a minimum of one to two times per week.

An Aug. 23 press release from Murphy’s office states that the requirement will strengthen protections against the spread of COVID-19, including the Delta variant, to children in school settings, many of whom are under 12 years old and not yet eligible for vaccination.

Murphy also announced that all state employees must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18 or to be subject to COVID-19 testing at a minimum of one to two times per week.

State employees in certain healthcare and correctional facilities are already subject to the vaccination or testing requirement under previously issued Executive Order No. 252.

The Aug. 23 announcement extended the scope to all workers of state agencies, authorities, and colleges and universities.

The order also clarifies that individuals seeking a medical exemption from mask wearing in accordance with certain exceptions outlined in Murphy’s Executive Order No. 251 for all public, private and parochial preschool programs and elementary and secondary schools, including charter and renaissance schools, will be required to produce written documentation from a medical professional to support that exemption. Self-attestations and parental attestations are not sufficient, according to the press release.

“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,” Murphy said.

“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 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 … as this new requirement goes into effect,” the Governor said.

For purposes of Executive Order No. 253, workers are defined as all individuals employed by a preschool to Grade 12 setting, both full-time and part-time, including administrators, teachers, educational support professionals, individuals providing food, custodial and administrative support services; substitute teachers; and contractors, providers and any other individuals performing work in preschool to Grade 12 settings whose job duties require them to make regular visits to such covered settings, including volunteers, according to the press release.

All preschool to Grade 12 settings will have until Oct. 18 to come into full compliance with the vaccine or testing requirement. At that time, if a worker has not submitted proof they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the worker will be required to submit to a minimum once to twice weekly testing.

Murphy’s 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 vaccinated and unvaccinated staff, and for mandatory vaccinations without a testing alternative, according to the press release.

“The value of in-person education for our children is clear,” said Dr. Jeanne Craft, president, New Jersey Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Measures that ensure vaccination of all eligible persons, supported by testing, masking, respectful physical distancing, hand-washing and staying home when sick, comprise a prudent approach to ensuring the safety of all children and adults in school settings.

“Children under the age of 12 who are not yet eligible for vaccination against SARS-CoV2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) and the immunocompromised are particularly vulnerable to this virus. We must remain vigilant and surround them with protection as we fight to end this pandemic,” Craft said.

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