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New Jersey Expands Vaccination Requirements for Healthcare Workers and High-Risk Settings

On January 19, 2022, Governor Philip D. Murphy signed Executive Order (EO) 283, requiring covered workers, including full and part-time employees, contractors, and other individuals working in the covered setting, such as individuals providing operational, custodial, or administrative support at health care facilities and high-risk congregate settings to be up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations, including having received a booster dose.

Currently, New Jersey allows unvaccinated healthcare workers to bypass receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and, instead, undergo weekly testing. With this new EO, the state is tightening its position and dropping the weekly testing option for unvaccinated healthcare workers.

The EO applies to the following health care and high-risk congregate settings:

  • Acute, pediatric, inpatient rehabilitation, and psychiatric hospitals, including specialty hospitals, and ambulatory surgical centers
  • Long-term care facilities, including the state veterans’ homes
  • Intermediate care facilities, including the state developmental centers
  • Residential detox, short-term and long-term residential substance abuse disorder treatment facilities
  • Clinic-based settings like ambulatory care, urgent care clinics, dialysis centers, Federally Qualified Health Centers, family planning sites, and opioid treatment programs
  • Community-based health care settings including Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly, and pediatric and adult medical day care programs
  • Licensed home health agencies and registered health care service firms operating within the state
  • State and county correctional facilities
  • Secure care facilities and residential community homes operated by the Juvenile Justice Commission
  • Licensed community residences for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Licensed community residences for adults with mental illness
  • Certified day programs for individuals with IDD and TBI; and
  • Group homes and psychiatric community homes licensed by DCF

Key Compliance Dates

Health care facilities’ covered workers subject to CMS vaccine mandate for health care settings will have until January 27, 2022, to obtain their first dose of the primary series of a COVID-19 vaccination and submit proof that they are up to date with their vaccination by February 28, 2022, which includes having completed their primary series and any booster shots for which they are eligible. This timeline is consistent with the federal vaccine mandate for health care settings.

Health care facilities’ covered workers not subject to the CMS vaccine mandate for health care settings and high-risk congregate care covered workers will have until February 16, 2022, to obtain their first dose of the primary series of a COVID-19 vaccination and submit proof that they are up to date with their vaccination by March 30, 2022.

Workers who become newly eligible for a booster shot after the respective February 28 and March 30 deadlines will be required to submit proof of their booster shot within three weeks of becoming eligible. The EO also requires that covered workers currently subject to testing under Executive Order No. 252 must continue once to twice weekly testing until they provide adequate proof that they are up to date with their vaccinations based on the respective February 28 and March 30 deadlines. 

Additional Requirements

Additionally, the EO requires covered settings to have a disciplinary process for non-compliance, including and up to termination of employment. The EO does not impact a covered facility’s ability to impose more stringent vaccination or testing requirements on workers, including any requirement for more frequent testing.

Next Steps for Employers

Employers should communicate the requirements of the EO to impacted workers as soon as possible to ensure they have time to plan and schedule vaccinations before the compliance related deadlines. Employers should also consider what disciplinary measures will be taken for non-compliance and ensure that they have developed a clear and consistent process which has been communicated with those who make decisions about employee discipline and termination. Employers should consult with counsel regarding their policies and procedures and regarding all questions to ensure compliance with the state’s COVID-19 regulations.

HR Works, Inc., headquartered at 200 WillowBrook Office Park in Fairport (Rochester), New York, with an office in East Syracuse, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.