Republicans in the State Senate are pushing to have Garden State residents who have had COVID-19 exempted from vaccine and testing requirements.
State Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-26), along with State Sen. Michael Testa (R-1), introduced legislation that could allow a person’s naturally developed immunity resulting from a prior COVID-19 infection to satisfy vaccination requirements imposed on workplaces, schools, or any other entity in New Jersey.
“We don’t think anyone should be discriminated against due to their vaccination status, personal health decisions, or desire for medical privacy,” said Pennacchio in a press statement Nov. 9. “However, to the extent that Gov. (Phil ) Murphy and others have imposed burdensome vaccine mandates already, we believe those requirements should be based on science and recognize the significant protection and natural immunity that results from a person’s prior COVID-19 infection.”
The proposed bill comes as lawmakers returned to Trenton this week encountering new protocols requiring all entering the buildings must show ID and proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test conducted within the previous 72 hours. The policy applies to elected lawmakers voting in person, all legislative staff members, reporters covering events, and anyone visiting the Statehouse, including those who want to speak at a hearing or protest a bill inside the building.
Legislative employees who have previously provided their employer with proof of full vaccination are not required to provide additional proof. If any member of the Legislature is found to be in non-compliance with this policy, the presiding officer of that member’s house will be notified and will determine whether to admit the member and under what conditions or accommodations admission will be permitted.
The two lawmakers argued that a growing body of scientific evidence supports incorporating the consideration of natural immunity into public policy, which could impact nearly 1.2 million New Jerseyans who have had confirmed or likely cases of COVID-19, as reported by the state dashboard.
The Republicans pointed to a recent Washington Post editorial by a Johns Hopkins School of Medicine professor in which he highlighted more than 15 studies demonstrating how “the emerging science suggests that natural immunity is as good as or better than vaccine-induced immunity.”
“Real people are being fired, kicked out of college, and discriminated against in various ways due to vaccine mandates imposed by Gov. Murphy and others,” said Testa. “It’s modern segregation that’s not the least bit based on the latest science. Our bill is an effort to save more than a million New Jerseyans with natural immunity from unnecessary harm, discrimination, and compliance burden.”
The proposed law would allow entities to accept a person’s verbal confirmation that they have natural immunity due to a prior COVID-19 infection to satisfy any vaccination or testing requirement that may be imposed as a condition of employment or to receive services, participate in activities, attend school or college, or gain admission to a place or venue. The bill would not supersede any federal laws, rules, or orders requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test result to enter a facility.
Besides the new workplace rules for state house workers, Gov. Murphy has issued mandates extending vaccine and test requirements to the entire state workforce and school personnel, public and private healthcare workers, child care personnel, and state contractors. Other public and private employers have followed suit, imposing similar requirements on their workforces across the U.S. as well as public and private colleges requiring vaccine mandates on their students.
“If you’re one of the nearly 1.2 million New Jerseyans who has recovered from COVID, our bill says you might not have to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test to go to work, attend school, or enter a venue,” said Testa. “You would only have to tell those requesting proof of vaccination or a negative test that you’ve had COVID already.”
Pennacchio added that the legislation “isn’t an endorsement of vaccine passports or of any other mandates or restrictions on New Jerseyans. We just believe the gross failure to account for natural immunity in current policy is so egregious it couldn’t be ignored.”
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 12,853,893 in-state, plus an additional 490,197 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 13,344,090 as of Nov. 10. Of those who have received the vaccine, 5,888,599 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 210,671 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 6,099,270
State officials reported boosters and third shots of 483,702 for Pfizer and 306,729 for Moderna. A total of 11,568 New Jerseyans have received their Johnson & Johnson booster shot. Overall, 802,117 have received a booster or third shot.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 1,418,056 doses (649,666 fully vaccinated), Essex 1,106,023 doses (510,865), Hudson 981,026 doses (460,215), Morris 770,642 doses (350,430), Passaic 679,802 doses (317,658), Sussex 181,895 doses (84,782), and Warren 119,386 doses (55,187).
As of Nov. 10, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 1,052,618 with 1,354 total new PCR cases. There were 383 probable cases, bringing the cumulative of antigen tests to 158,805. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,211,423.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 16 confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 25,316. The state listed probable deaths at 2,818 for an overall total of 28,134. State officials noted 11 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on Nov. 10, Bergen had a total of 91 new confirmed cases and 28 new probable cases, Essex 79 new cases and 26 new probable case, Hudson 83 new cases and eight new probable cases, Morris 51 new confirmed cases and 28 new probable cases, Passaic 63 new cases and five new probable cases, Sussex 44 new cases and 10 new probable cases, and Warren 28 new cases and two new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,858, followed by Bergen at 2,696, Hudson with 2,168, Passaic at 1,816, Morris at 1,045, Sussex at 271, and Warren County at 229.
In regards to probable deaths reported Nov. 8, Essex has 310, Bergen has 311, Morris has 266, Hudson has 222, Passaic has 207, Sussex has 71 and Warren has 26.
Of the 5,768,483 fully vaccinated individuals studied as of Oct. 25, 44,955 New Jersey residents have tested positive for COVID who were fully vaccinated, resulting in 1,002 COVID-related hospitalizations and 258 COVID-related deaths. All those are less than 1% in each category.
In the week of Oct. 17-24, breakthroughs accounted for 16.6% of all new cases (1,924 of 11,615), 3.8% of new hospilizations (29 of 762), and none of the 132 deaths.
As for the rate of transmission reported Nov. 10, it declined to 0.97 from 0.98 the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested Nov. 5 was 3.7%; by region, the rate was 3.0% in the North, 4.5% in the Central region and 4.4% in the South.
The state reported 656 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 230 in the North, 206 in the Central and 220 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 138 are in intensive care units and 61 on ventilators. A total of 49 patients were discharged in the last 24 hour reporting period.
Officials have continually cited transmission rate, hospitalizations, intensive care units, ventilators and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions as of Nov. 10, the state has tracked 160 school outbreaks and 860 cases linked to those outbreaks since the 2021/2022 school year starting Aug. 7, up 12 outbreaks and 66 cases from the week previous.
Outbreaks are defined as three or more laboratory confirmed COVID-19 cases among students or staff with onsets within a 14 day period, linked within the school setting, do not share a household, and were not identified as close contacts of each other in another setting during standard case investigation or contact tracing.
For North Jersey in the new report, Passaic County has eight confirmed outbreak with 102 cases, Bergen County has 14 confirmed outbreak with 65 cases, Sussex has 15 confirmed outbreak with 58 cases, Morris County has seven confirmed outbreaks with 33 cases, Essex County has six confirmed outbreak with 26 cases and Hudson County has seven confirmed outbreaks with 25 cases. No outbreaks were reported in Warren County.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 126 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 1,190 of the cases, broken down between 655 residents and 535 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,813 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 33,987 residents and 23,221 staff, for a total of 57,208.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,657 on Nov. 10. The facilities are reporting to the state 8,000 residents deaths and 145 staff deaths.