N.J. Orders Shots for Teachers as Schools Reopen After 18 Months
(Bloomberg) -- Governor Phil Murphy will require New Jersey school staff to be vaccinated for Covid-19 or tested weekly, a step aimed at slowing the pandemic as more than 1.4 million children prepare to return to classes statewide for the first time since March 2020. The governor ordered the state workforce to do the same.
Murphy’s teacher-vaccination mandate stops short of one announced Monday by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio that doesn’t allow for testing for those who refuse inoculations. California two weeks ago became the first U.S. state to impose a vaccine requirement on school employees, leading to similar orders in Washington, Oregon and Connecticut.
The New Jersey order will apply to teachers and staff for students in pre-school through grade 12 at both public and private schools. Those who haven’t been vaccinated by Oct. 18 must submit to testing at least weekly, Murphy said.
“Some continue to mistakenly grasp to the lie that kids can’t get Covid or can’t spread Covid,” Murphy said at a virus update in Trenton.
The step by the governor has the support of the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s biggest teachers union. The labor group also endorsed the school mask mandate that Murphy announced on Aug. 6.
Murphy, a 64-year-old Democrat, has generally drawn support for his handling of the pandemic ahead of the November election, when he’s running for a second term, though his approval rating has slipped since the height of the pandemic in 2020. A Monmouth University poll found that he has approval from 54% of registered voters, with 61% saying he’s done a good job in handling the coronavirus.
A separate poll last week showed him with a 16 percentage-point election lead over Republican challenger Jack Ciatterelli.
The teacher-inoculation requirements from New York City and New Jersey came just as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to the Covid-19 vaccine made by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, a milestone that could open the door to more vaccination requirements among employers and businesses.
Such mandates are seen as a crucial tool to protect children who aren’t yet eligible to receive the vaccine.
Roughly 50 million people living in the U.S. are under age 12, the current age limit for receiving the shots, according to Census estimates. Hospitalizations of children with the virus nationally hit a record of more than 1,900 on Aug. 14 as the Dallas area ran out of pediatric intensive-care beds and more admissions of youth were reported in states including Arkansas, Missouri and Louisiana.
In Florida, Nebraska and Kentucky, where vaccination rates are lower than New Jersey’s, some school districts were forced to close when Covid-19 cases spiked shortly after opening this month. Classes will start the week of Sept. 5 for most of the more than 1.4 million New Jersey children in pre-school through 12th grade.
New Jersey reached its 70% full-vaccination goal for adults in June, making it a leader among U.S. states. But hospitalizations have more than doubled in the past month, to 946, and Murphy in recent weeks has said that he was considering broad safety steps. In the Monmouth survey, 62% said they would support a return to social distancing and masking in public.
The survey, of 810 registered voters from Aug. 11-16, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
A majority of New Jersey voters, 53%, would support requiring children 12 and older to be vaccinated to attend school in person, the poll found. About 45% would favor such a rule for those under 12 if the shots are authorized. Parents, though, weren’t as supportive, with 44% approving potential vaccine requirements for those in middle and high schools, and 39% for younger children.
The poll found that 54% approved of the job Murphy was doing, a decrease of 3 percentage points since May and 18 points since April 2020, when the state was in full crisis. Those who disapproved, though, remained steady, at 36%. On pandemic handling, 61% said he was doing a good job, a drop of 4 points since May and 19 points since April 2020.
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