Events up and down the Garden State are beginning to require the COVID-19 vaccine for admission, as lagging inoculation rates fuel a surge in the highly contagious delta variant. The Spaghetti Dinner Block Party on Aug. 26 in Hoboken will require the shots, as will Tech United’s Propelify Innovation Festival on Oct. 6. Both events are on the Hoboken waterfront.
And Los Angeles-based AEG Presents, which owns the 2,500-person Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, is requiring the vaccine or negative test results within the past 72 hours in order to gain admission to any concerts or shows after Oct. 1.
According to an Aug. 12 Starland Facebook post, the mandate will extend to all “fans, artists, and live event workers.”
“We realize that some people might look at this as a dramatic step, but it’s the right one,” reads a statement from AEG Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jay Marciano. “[T]here might be some initial pushback, but I’m confident and hopeful that, at the end of the day, we will be on the right side of history and doing what’s best for artists, fans, and live event workers.”
The New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark enacted the same requirement back in April.
In Hoboken, proof of vaccine for the block party will be required for anyone over the age of 12, while those under 12 – not yet able to get any shot – will be required to wear a face mask.
Over the past month, daily cases and total hospitalizations have climbed to their highest level since the late spring.
The state logged 1,697 new COVID-19 cases on Aug. 12, the highest since April 29, according to the New Jersey Department of Health. Total hospitalizations climbed to 763 statewide patients, the most since mid-May.
According to state data, the delta variant accounted for 90% of new cases in the four-week period ending July 24.
With less than 5.4 million of New Jersey’s more than 9 million residents fully vaccinated, the sizable pool of unvaccinated residents has provided ample ground for the new variant to spread, according to public health officials and experts.
Deaths and hospitalizations are almost exclusively among those who have not gotten the vaccine, according to the Murphy administration.
Gov. Phil Murphy has shied away from announcing new mandates or restrictions, like the reduced capacity orders that were in place for most businesses for over a year. He did sign a requirement that anyone in a K-12 school must wear a mask regardless of their vaccine status, and has “strongly” urged people to wear masks indoors while in public whether or not they’ve gotten the shot.
Health care workers and other frontline employees have until Sept. 7 to get the shot or submit to weekly testing.
But Murphy’s left it up to individual employers to decide whether or not to mandate the vaccine, even though New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that patrons beginning Aug. 16 need to get the vaccine in order to gain access to indoor dining, gyms and entertainment.
Starting on Aug. 10, It’s Greek to Me Ridgewood began requiring the vaccine for indoor dining.
The vaccine mandate enters murky legal grounds and has become a politically and culturally divisive topic. But state and federal laws generally allow employers to impose mandates, like inoculations.
“Employers don’t want to be in the position of having to dictate the health care of their employees, nor do they want to be the police over customers frequenting their facilities,” said Michele Siekerka, president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association. “It creates animosity and not a great customer experience.”