New Jersey’s Republican lawmakers have a message for Gov. Phil Murphy: end the remaining COVID-19 vaccine and testing mandates that are active within the state.
The mandates, which still affect teachers, healthcare workers, nursing home aides, and corrections, were targeted via a letter sent to the Governor, and signed by members of the caucus. The request comes as the state has seen an uptick in new COVID-19 cases recently while hospitalizations and deaths have remained relatively low compared to previous surges.
First up is legislation introduced May 9 by two North Jersey lawmakers calling for an end to weekly testing for New Jersey public school teachers, support staff, and bus drivers who did not receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Ending School Testing
State Sens. Kristin Corrado (R-40) and Anthony Bucco (R-25) are looking to end what they see as unneeded test due to New Jersey’s case counts, hospitalizations, and deaths plummeting in recent months.
“New Jersey’s public health emergency ended more than two months ago on March 4 and yet public schools are still testing teachers, bus drivers, and other K-12 school employees for COVID-19 on a weekly basis,” said Corrado. “This absurd and unnecessary policy not only imposes restrictions and undue burdens on educators, but it undermines the guidelines of the CDC itself. There is no rational explanation for this policy whatsoever.”
Ending Executive Orders
The COVID-19 public health emergency was lifted on March 4, when Murphy signed executive order No. 292. At that time, the governor lifted the school mask mandate as well but kept in place the program that requires teachers and other school personnel to either be vaccinated or be tested.
“It’s absurd that we as legislators need to introduce formal legislation in order to reign in the Governor’s overbearing executive orders,” said Bucco. “This testing mandate for educators is completely irrational and is not supported by any sort of scientific consensus.”
The lawmakers additionally argued that recent data showed the omicron variant—the mildest COVID variant that typically presents with cold-like symptoms—was the most dominant variant by far in the United States, Europe, Canada, and Australia. The more serious variants, such as alpha, beta, and delta, have all but disappeared.
“As we have seen with omicron, COVID has become a relatively mild illness for most people, including those who are not vaccinated, with symptoms similar to the common cold,” added Bucco. “It’s time for Governor Murphy to lift this unnecessary testing requirement so that New Jersey can join the rest of the nation and move on from this pandemic.”
The legislation from Corrado and Bucco comes after a letter from GOP lawmakers that argued that since life had started to return to normal for most New Jerseyans and that mask mandates had largely been dropped, it was time for these last mandates to be dropped.
“Some public and private sector workers, however, remain subject to burdensome, unnecessary, and illogical pandemic restrictions that were imposed by you through executive order and never repealed,” they wrote.
Focus Vaccination Mandates
Regarding ongoing vaccination mandates, the Republican lawmakers shared anecdotal stories from constituents saying the nursing and group home operators were finding it difficult to attract and retain adequate staff.
“Given the reduced severity of recent strains of COVID-19, the availability of effective therapeutics, and widespread vaccine-induced and naturally-acquired immunity, facility operators have warned that a far greater threat is posed to the vulnerable people in their care by a shortage of skilled workers than by unvaccinated staff,” the letter read.
Additionally, the lawmakers questioned why corrections officers and other employees were mandated to be vaccinated, yet prison inmates were not.
“Given these many concerns, we believe there is absolutely no basis to continue to threaten employees with termination for refusing to comply with your vaccine mandate. We urge you to lift the vaccine mandate immediately,” they said.
Arguing Against Booster Shots
Although required by New Jersey statutes, the Republican lawmakers took umbrage with booster shots as well. Citing a Yale University study of 130,000 people, they argued the science showed booster shots were not receiving additional benefits against the Omicron variant.
“A separate study from Canada similarly found that more than two vaccine doses “may be of marginal incremental value” for protecting previously-infected individuals against Omicron. Approximately 60% of the population has had COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and falls into that group,” the Republicans said.
The letter noted 60% of the total population and 75% of children had been infected with the virus since the start of the pandemic, while nearly 7 million New Jersey residents were fully vaccinated.
“Based on the data that your administration and the CDC have reported, we know that most New Jerseyans have either had COVID-19 or received a full series or partial course of vaccination, or both, with some resultant level of immunity across the overwhelming majority of our population,” they said.