Nearly 1.4 million people who work in New Jersey could be subject to a new vaccine mandate imposed by the Biden administration requiring business with more than 100 employees to require that employees get the shot.
Under the White House policy, part of a six-point plan to control the pandemic, companies would be required to provide paid sick time to recover from side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine, and employees that do not get vaccinated would face weekly testing.
According to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, there are 4,646 private worksites employing nearly 1.4 million people that meet the criteria in the Garden State.
Companies that do not comply could face fines of $14,000 per violation, according to the administration. The move by President Joe Biden comes amid a surge in the delta variant, almost exclusively among those who have not gotten the vaccine.
Out of New Jersey’s 9 million residents, 5.6 million people who live, work or study in the state have been fully vaccinated. Anyone as young as 12 can get the vaccine for free.
Mask mandates, travel restrictions and business closures were lifted months ago and the virus has spread among unvaccinated Americans, driving up new daily case counts and hospitalizations to levels not seen since the spring.
“[W]hat makes it incredibly more frustrating is that we have the tools to combat COVID-19, and a distinct minority of Americans,” Biden said in his prepared remarks Sept. 9 at the White House. “We cannot allow these actions to stand in the way of protecting the large majority of Americans who have done their part and want to get back to life as normal.”
The COVID-19 vaccine mandate remains a touchy subject . In early August, NJBIZ asked 55 of the state’s biggest employers for their stance on requiring the shot among employees. Most did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Since then, companies have begun imposing vaccine mandates, mainly after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Many of New Jersey’s largest employers are among those requiring the vaccine, including RWJBarnabas Health; CVS Pharmacy; United Airlines which uses Newark Liberty International Airport as one of its national hubs; and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson. Combined, they employ tens of thousands of New Jersey workers.
“I really think it’s up to the individual companies to do what they think is right,” said Tom Bracken, head of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, which mandated the vaccine last month for its staff, and for attendees at any in-person events.
Nevertheless, Bracken said Biden’s announcement could trigger a surge in vaccinations in New Jersey and across the country.
“Our pulse poll in late August basically showed a mixed bag in terms of employer and employee acceptance of mandated vaccines in the workplace,” said Bob Considine, a spokesperson for the New Jersey Business and Industry Association. “It should be up to the employer to determine, as every business has different levels of protection, different levels of interactions, employees with different points of views, and different situations relating to staffing needed to stay in business.”
Meanwhile, Murphy signed an order giving all health care and frontline workers until Sept. 7 to be fully vaccinated, and then issued another mandate for state workers and faculty and staff at schools and universities.
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