New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said 70% of state employees have been fully vaccinated under his vax-or-test mandate which took effect October 18th.
Murphy said 43 of 50 state agencies, authorities and commissions are reporting more than three-quarters of their staff are inoculated, which is on par with the overall vaccination rate for New Jerseyans of 73%. It is the first time Murphy has released vaccination numbers for state employees and they come as infection rates among residents are surging.
“It’s a good start but it’s going to get better, it needs to get better,” Murphy said during a press briefing in Trenton on Monday. “We’re working with agencies, departments, public employee unions on a plan in each one of those fronts.”
State officials did not specify which departments or state commissions had the lowest compliance rates. Officials also did not say if any employees had been reprimanded for failing to follow the directive.
Parimal Garg, Murphy’s chief counsel, said employees will be subject to “progressive discipline” for disobeying the mandate. That can include unpaid suspension and potentially lead to termination, he said.
New Jersey does not require booster doses to be considered fully vaccinated. While Murphy is urging people to get boosted, he said he will follow federal guidance before requiring it.
The daily average of COVID-19 cases has increased three-fold since the last week of October and hospitalizations spiked by about 30% this week compared to last, state data show. State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said 80% of COVID-19 hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated.
Persichilli said New Jersey residents can now request free at-home PCR tests under a new state partnership with Vault Medical Services. Residents can request the saliva tests online at learn.vaulthealth.com/nj/. Results are shipped back in a pre-paid envelope and are ready 24-48 hours after they are received.
While New York instituted a new indoor masking mandate on Monday, Murphy has shied away from issuing similar restrictions, but said all options remain on the table.
New York also required state employees to be vaccinated or tested regularly by October 12th. So far, 76% of the workforce is fully vaccinated, a state spokeswoman said. In New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio mandated vaccines for all public employees, the vaccination rate for city workers was 94%, as of Sunday.
This story has been updated.