Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order March 2 extending the deadline for hospital workers and those working in high-risk congregate setting, including correctional workers, to get their COVID-19 booster shots
The deadline for healthcare workers to get a COVID booster shot was moved to April 11 after the prior deadline passed this week with tens of thousands still without the shot. The new deadline comes after the New Jersey Hospital Association had asked Murphy for a 90-day extension last week.
In his press statement, Murphy said the executive order aligns the state with updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations on optimal intervals between first and second doses of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccination series.
“Over the course of our COVID-19 response, we have always followed the science in decision-making, and this is no different,” said Murphy. “This executive order ensures that our COVID-19 vaccination requirements for covered workers in medical and high-risk congregate settings are able to properly keep themselves and those whom they care for safe.”
Hospital and nursing home executives across the state had told state officials they would be left in a precarious position of having massive staff shortages if they were to discipline the scores of workers who missed Monday’s deadline.
May 11 for Congregant Workers
About 39% of the state’s 50,000 workers at nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other long-term care centers had still not gotten a booster shot as of March 1.
The order extends the booster deadline for prison workers, group home employees and others who work in high risk congregate care settings to May 11. The union representing prison guards had fought the mandate all the way to the state Supreme Court and lost. Their deadline to get boosted was set for March 30.
Additionally, the order requires a covered setting to take the first step toward bringing a noncompliant covered worker into compliance as part of the disciplinary policy within two weeks of the respective deadlines. Failure to take such action may result in penalties and other corrective actions allowed pursuant to federal or state regulation or statute.
GOP: Not Far Enough
Republican lawmakers , including State Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-25) believe the actions will just will delay a staffing crises caused by the vaccine mandate.
“In true Trenton fashion, Murphy is kicking the can down the road,” Bucco continued. “Better yet, he should kick it off the field completely. There is no need for vaccine mandates.”
Bucco has repeatedly expressed concerns that the mandates will force workers to give up their jobs, exacerbating a staffing shortage that has already impacted some facilities.
“The loss of trained, experienced healthcare workers in this environment is a recipe for disaster,” Bucco said. “Everybody loses when doctors, nurses and other professionals are forced to walk away from their jobs. This is exactly what I predicted would happen six weeks ago and the as what has become common practice, the Governor waited till the final hour to respond. It is time to stop with the mandates.”
The cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey as of March 2 was 1,874,696 with 1,176 total new PCR cases. There were 263 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 295,365. The total number of individual cases for the state is 2,170,061.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 22 confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 29,998. The state listed probable deaths at 2,968, bringing the overall total to 32,966. State officials noted six deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on March 2, Bergen had a total of 153 new confirmed cases and 32 new probable cases, Essex 110 new cases and 17 new probable case, Hudson 118 new cases and six new probable cases, Morris 32 new confirmed cases and 22 new probable cases, Passaic 72 new cases and six new probable cases, Sussex 24 new cases and five new probable cases, and Warren 10 new cases and four new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 3,261, followed by Bergen at 3,084, Hudson with 2,482, Passaic at 2,117, Morris at 1,216, Sussex at 376, and Warren County at 309.
In regards to probable deaths reported Feb. 28, Bergen has 321, Essex has 311, Morris has 296, Hudson has 221, Passaic has 199, Sussex has 88 and Warren has 27.
As for the rate of transmission reported March 2, it remained at 0.79 from the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested Feb. 25 was 3.2%, the lowest since mid-July 2021; by region, the rate was 2.9% in the North, 3.9% in the Central region and 2.7% in the South.
The state’s dashboard had a count of 758 patients hospitalized as all but two of the 71 hospitals in the Garden State filed reports March 2. By region, there were 260 in the North, 255 in the Central and 243 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 147 are in intensive care units and 89 on ventilators. A total of 114 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.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 394 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 22,025 of the cases, broken down between 10,313 residents and 11,712 staff.
Cumulatively, 2,368 long-term care facilities have reported an outbreak infecting 46,931 residents and 37,960 staff, for a total of 84,891.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 9,282 on March 2. The facilities are reporting to the state 8,498 residents deaths and 149 staff deaths.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 13,739,815 in-state, plus an additional 563,338 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 14,303,153 as of March 2.
Of those who have received the vaccine, 6,540,057 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 224,977 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 6,765,034. With just under 8.5 million eligible in New Jersey to be vaccinated, 80% are fully vaccinated and 91% have received at least one dose.
State officials reported boosters and third shots of 1,714,324 for Pfizer and 1,334,495 for Moderna. A total of 65,460 New Jerseyans have received their Johnson & Johnson booster shot. Overall, 3,114,279 have received a booster or third shot—54% of the 5.7 million of those eligible have received their booster.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has 715,665 residents fully vaccinated, Essex 584,599, Hudson 522,213, Morris 383,485, Passaic 355,172, Sussex 91,984, and Warren 60,003.
According to the state dashboard with just 58.1% of all New Jersey schools reporting due to Winter break, new student cases totaled 1,505 and new staff cases 389 in the last week as of Feb. 20. Cumulatively, 128,175 cases have been reported— 100,375 students and 27,800 staffers.
In regards to outbreaks related to in-school transmissions as of Feb. 28, the state has tracked 511 school outbreaks and 3,450 cases linked to those outbreaks since the 2021/2022 school year starting Aug. 7, up four outbreaks and 19 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, Bergen County has 58 confirmed outbreaks with 334 cases, Morris County has 40 confirmed outbreaks with 248 cases, Essex County has 33 confirmed outbreaks with 232 cases, Passaic County has 22 confirmed outbreaks with 188 cases, Sussex has 34 confirmed outbreaks with 177 cases, Hudson County has 20 confirmed outbreaks with 97 cases and Warren County has two confirmed outbreaks with 15 cases.