TRENTON, N.J. – Following a Republican push in the Assembly on Monday to protect health care workers and corrections officers from Gov. Phil Murphy’s Covid-19 strict vaccination mandate, the governor signed an executive order today pushing back the compliance deadlines.
Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer, who moved to force an Assembly vote on her bill (A2585) prohibiting discrimination against front-line workers who have declined the Covid-19 vaccines and boosters, said the governor’s announcement is a political response to the growing opposition to government overreach.
“While it would be nice to believe that Murphy gained an understanding of how his orders are hurting our heroes, it is more likely he is seeing how his mandates might harm his personal political ambitions,” Sawyer (R-Gloucester) said. “Make no doubt about it, today’s announcement would never have happened if the Republican conference in the Assembly did not collectively fight back and our dedicated health care workers and corrections officers did not stand their ground and refuse to comply with an unconstitutional and unfair mandate.”
On Jan. 19, Murphy signed an executive order requiring health care workers to be fully up to date with Covid-19 vaccination, including booster shots, by Feb. 28. Employees in high-risk congregate settings like prisons had until March 30 to show proof of compliance. The new order pushes back those deadlines to April 11 and May 11, respectively. Covered settings like hospitals and halfway houses have two weeks from those dates to enforce disciplinary actions against workers who are noncompliant.
“Today’s executive order gives us more time to beef up our argument that these mandates are unnecessary and will just contribute to dire staffing shortages in our already strained health care systems and prisons,” Sawyer added.
Prior to today’s announcement, the New Jersey Hospital Association requested a 90-day extension for health care workers to get the booster shot or risk disciplinary action. Hackensack Meridian also announced deferred disciplinary action until June 1 for anyone without a booster. Corrections officers’ unions have been fighting to do away with the mandate altogether in court.
LISTEN: Saywer joins New Jersey 101.5’s Bill Spadea to defend health care workers and prison guards from Murphy’s vaccine mandates Wednesday.
“People should have a choice. Forcing someone against their will to receive a booster shot when the data shows the threat of Covid-19 to be declining is anti-science,” Sawyer said.
On Wednesday, New Jersey’s seven-day average for confirmed Covid-19 cases is 1,073, down 19% from a week ago and 76% from a month ago. All of New Jersey’s 21 counties are currently listed as having “medium or “low” rates of transmission, according to the CDC’s new guidelines.
“I will continue to voice my concerns and stand up for our heroes who risked their lives in the beginning of the pandemic only to be punished once the numbers start to wane,” Sawyer said.