NJ judges, court staff now required to get COVID shot

Daniel J. Munoz//August 6, 2021

NJ judges, court staff now required to get COVID shot

Daniel J. Munoz//August 6, 2021

Thousands of court staff and state judges across New Jersey will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine or submit to routine testing, according to an Aug. 6 afternoon announcement from the State Judiciary.

The announcement makes the State Judiciary – which handles the network of county and appeals courts, and the state Supreme Court – the largest government agency in New Jersey to mandate the jab for its workers.

It does not list the deadline for getting the shot.

The move comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations reach their highest levels in months amid a surge in the highly contagious delta variant among those still hesitant or unable to get the vaccine.

On Aug. 5, the state logged 1,345 new cases–the highest one-day spike in three months and four times the daily cases on July 1. Meanwhile, the state logged 599 hospitalizations, double what they were on July 1.

As of Aug. 4, the seven-day average was 1,103 cases, compared to a seven-day average on July 9 of 222 cases, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The new policy is being implemented to support a safe workplace for all members of the Judiciary and all court users amid worsening COVID-19 trends in New Jersey and across the nation,” said Judge Glenn Grant, acting administrative director of the courts.

At the start of the week, Gov. Phil Murphy signed an order mandating employees get the vaccine if they work at county jails and state correctional facilities, the veteran’s homes, psychiatric centers, 71 acute-care hospitals, specialty hospitals, developmental centers, long-term care and assisted-living facilities, short-term and post-acute in-patient rehabs, home health agencies, behavioral health care facilities, and the state-owned University Hospital.

Meanwhile, the bi-state Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs Newark Liberty International Airport, the seaports in Union and Essex counties, and the Hudson River crossings, is requiring a shot or a frequent negative COVID-19 test of it’s New York employees.

There are no announced plans for mandating vaccines among New Jersey Transit workers and Garden State PANYNJ workers, nor for state workers or school employees, but Murphy said it was being considered.

“We have been in communication with relevant stakeholders regarding our policy including our union partners across both the public and private sectors,” Murphy said on Aug. 3.

Thousands of public employees are represented by Communications Workers of America New Jersey Chapter and most teachers and school employees by the New Jersey Education Association of New Jersey.

“We look forward to working with the Murphy Administration and having cooperative discussions to ensure public health, while also respecting bargaining,” CWA-NJ State Director Fran Ehret said in a statement to several news outlets. “The state colleges and universities have already proposed that workers – both CWA-represented and otherwise — be subject to mandatory vaccination. We’ve been reviewing that proposal internally already and look forward to bargaining with the state on it.”

Private sector actors have slowly transitioned away from incentivizing their employees to get the shot toward an employee mandate, like the recent requirement announced by United Airlines, which uses Newark Liberty International Airport as one of its major hubs.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to grant full approval for either the J&J, Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, or all three of them, which legal experts contend would trigger more workplace vaccine mandates.