Gov. Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 253 last week, requiring all preschool to grade 12 school personnel to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 18, 2021 or be subject to COVID-19 testing at minimum one to two times per week. This requirement will strengthen protections against the spread of COVID-19, including the highly transmissible 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 October 18, 2021 or be subject to COVID-19 testing at minimum 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. Last week’s announcement extended the scope to all workers of state agencies, authorities, and colleges and universities. The state will work with impacted agencies and authorities, as well as union partners, over the coming weeks to implement this requirement.
The order also clarifies that individuals seeking a medical exemption from mask wearing pursuant to certain exceptions outlined in 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.
“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 Murphy. “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.”
For purposes of Executive Order No. 253, preschool to grade 12 settings include:
• All public, private, and parochial preschool programs, elementary, and secondary schools, including charter and renaissance schools.
For purposes of Executive Order No. 253, workers are defined as:
• All individuals employed by a preschool to Grade 12 setting as defined above, both full- and part-time, including, but not limited to, administrators, teachers, educational support professionals, individuals providing food, custodial, and administrative support services;
• Substitute teachers, whether employed directly by a preschool to Grade 12 setting or otherwise contracted; 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.
• Covered workers do not include individuals who visit the covered setting only to provide one-time or limited-duration repairs, services, or construction.
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.