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New Jersey Mandates Vaccinations for Healthcare Workers – Testing No Longer an Option

In the continued battle to fight the deadly pandemic and protect public health, Government Murphy signed Executive Order 283 on January 19, 2022 mandating that New Jersey health care workers be vaccinated or potentially face termination. In doing so, Governor Murphy reversed previously issued Executive Order 252, issued on August 6, 2021, which permitted health care workers to undergo COVID-19 testing at a minimum of one or two times per week in lieu of vaccination. The new Executive Order specifically states that covered health care settings must maintain a policy requiring covered workers to provide adequate proof they are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations.

Unvaccinated workers in covered health care facilities subject to the vaccine mandate issued by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) (part of the Department of Health and Human Services) were required to receive their first-dose of the vaccine by January 27, 2022, and must submit proof that they are up to date with the vaccine and any boosters for which they are eligible by February 28, 2022. This mandate was upheld by the United States Supreme Court on January 13, 2022, requiring most Medicare and Medicaid-certified providers’ and suppliers’ staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

New Jersey’s “covered workers” at “healthcare settings” and “high-risk congregate settings” (who are not subject to the CMS’s vaccine mandate) must receive their first dose of the vaccine by February 16, 2022, and submit proof that they are completely vaccinated by March 30, 2022.

Covered workers may demonstrate adequate proof they are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations by presenting the following documents:

  • The CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Card issued to the vaccine recipient by the vaccination site, or an electronic or physical copy of the same;

  • An official record from the New Jersey Immunization Information System or other State

    immunization registry;

  • A record from a health care provider’s portal/medical record system on official letterhead signed by a licensed physician, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, registered nurse, or pharmacist;

  • A military immunization or health record from the United States Armed Forces; or

  • A Docket mobile phone application record or any state specific application that produces a digital health record.

The Executive Order maintains that “covered workers” include full-time and part-time employees, contractors, and other individuals working in covered settings, including individuals providing operational or custodial services or administrative support.

“Health care settings” includes acute, pediatric, inpatient rehabilitation, and psychiatric hospitals, including specialty hospitals, and ambulatory surgical centers; long-term care facilities; intermediate care facilities; residential detox, short-term, and long-term residential substance abuse disorder treatment facilities; clinic-based settings like ambulatory care, urgent care clinics, dialysis centers, Federally Qualified Health Centers, family planning sites, and Opioid Treatment Programs; community-based healthcare settings including Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly, pediatric and adult medical day care programs, and licensed home health agencies and registered health care service firms operating within the State.

“High-risk congregate settings” include State and county correctional facilities; all congregate care settings operated by the Juvenile Justice Commission, which includes secure care facilities and residential community homes; licensed community residences for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (“IDD”) and traumatic brain injury (“TBI”); licensed community residences for adults with mental illness; certified day programs for individuals with IDD and TBI, and group homes and psychiatric community homes licensed by DCF.

Further, the Executive Order permits employees to request an exemption for accommodations based on a disability, medical condition, or a sincerely held religious belief. If an employee receives such an exemption, they must submit to weekly or twice weekly testing in accordance with Executive Order 252.

At least one legal challenge to Executive Order 283 has been filed, which is scheduled to be heard by the New Jersey Appellate Division in early February.

This summary is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. This information should not be reused without permission.