TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblywomen Marilyn Piperno and Kim Eulner denounced Gov. Phil Murphy’s latest executive order eliminating a Covid-19 testing option for unvaccinated health care workers as it puts the state’s most vulnerable residents at risk and ignores science.
On Tuesday, the governor signed Executive Order No. 283 mandating Covid-19 vaccinations and boosters for workers at health care facilities and high-risk congregate settings, and removing testing as an alternative to vaccination, except in rare cases.
“New Jersey needs our front-line health care heroes, not more executive orders. The governor’s mandates will exacerbate an already dire staffing situation in our health care settings and will put patients at risk because of a lack of access to quality care,” Piperno (R-Monmouth) said. “With the swift-spreading omicron variant, our overtaxed health care systems can’t afford to lose dedicated and skilled staff because of an edict that contradicts all logic. Purposely interrupting critical care delivery is a dangerous proposal.”
New Jersey’s Covid-19 hospitalizations hit a high of more than 6,000 patients on Jan. 11. There are currently a little less than 5,000 people hospitalized with the virus. Long-term-care facilities are facing another surge with more than 550 reporting active outbreaks, which includes more than 12,000 staff and 10,000 resident infections.
“Nearly a third of the positive Covid tests from Dec. 20 through Dec. 26 were considered breakthrough cases. Science says that vaccination does not stop infection, but Governor Murphy is doubling down on his misguided orders and eliminating a testing option that clearly shows whether a person is unknowingly infected,” Eulner (R-Monmouth) said. “Threatening to terminate nurses, aides, therapists and medical professionals for not getting a shot that won’t stop infection is anti-science, stresses already overburdened workers and hurts our most vulnerable populations.”
Medical facilities across the state have reported staffing shortages requiring them to pause elective surgeries, assign more patients to workers or even lengthen shifts. The situation is so bad at University Hospital in Newark, the state’s only public acute care facility, the federal government announced in early January it was sending in a team of 23 military medical workers. The hospital reported that more than 93% of its 3,700 employees were fully vaccinated; however, more than 700 employees have called out sick with the coronavirus during the last month.
Under the new executive order, health care workers have until Jan. 27 to get their first vaccine dose. Those who work in high-risk congregate living facilities like prisons and nursing homes have until Feb. 16. Fully vaccinated health care workers have until Feb. 28 to get the booster, while those who work in congregate settings have until March 30. Failure to comply will result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination.