The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce will require its entire staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and will require guests at in-person events to show either proof of inoculation or a negative test result, the organization said on Aug. 23.
The Chamber has urged businesses in the state to push workers to get the vaccine and its move comes the same day the Food and Drug Administration issued a full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, now known as Comirnaty, for individuals age 16 and older. Public health experts have said that FDA approval could spur more vaccine requirements by employers.
“This will be a standard policy for employees and across all N.J. Chamber events, and it should give even more confidence to our employees, members and guests about how seriously the Chamber is taking safety,” said Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Bracken in a statement. “Employers across New Jersey should continue to encourage their employees to get vaccinated, especially in light of the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer vaccine.”
Event attendees will have to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken with 72 hours of the gathering or a negative antigen test taken within six hours. Guests will also be required to wear masks, except when eating or drinking. Enforcement will begin immediately. The Chamber’s next live event is a program to promote diversity on Sept. 14 in Livingston.
The organization cited the rapid spread of the COVID-19 delta variant, which has been driving up case numbers and hospitalizations in New Jersey and around the country.
New Jersey businesses outside the health care industry have moved cautiously on the question of whether to require vaccinations among employees. NJBIZ recently contacted 55 companies, including some of the state’s largest employers, asking whether they would issue a mandate. Eight declined to comment and 32 did not respond. Among those that did, many said that they had not adopted a requirement but were strongly encouraging their workers to get the shot, through strong messaging or incentives.
An online poll conducted by NJBIZ on the issue elicited 73 responses to the question: “Is your business/company requiring vaccines as a condition of employment?” Among the respondents, 70% said no; 18% answered yes; and 12% said they were unsure.
Nonetheless, some restaurants and live event venues have adopted vaccine requirements. And United Airlines, which operates a major hub at Newark Liberty International Airport, announced on Aug. 5 that all of its workers must be vaccinated by October.
The Chamber’s announcement also came hours before Gov. Phil Murphy ordered all teachers and school staff the entire state workforce to be inoculated by Oct. 18 or submit to testing.