Unvaccinated teachers and childcare workers in New Jersey will no longer be forced to test for COVID-19 on a weekly basis, according to Gothamist.
In a Monday executive order, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy rescinded the requirement for school districts and child care centers effective immediately and for state contractors beginning Sept. 1.
"With children as young as 6 months old now eligible for vaccines, and millions of New Jerseyans vaccinated and boosted, more of our residents are safe from severe illness due to COVID-19," Murphy said in a statement.
The governor also said the order aligns with recent guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
School districts and child care centers are free to set their own testing or vaccination policies, according to the order.
"Allowing child care centers to maintain their own policies is very important," Lynette Galante, president of New Jersey Child Care Association, told Gothamist. "Having that leeway to maintain our policies that we worked really hard to create is a great thing and it also helps the parents."
Galante told the news outlet that she will still be requiring all of her employees at Future Generation Early Learning Center in Colts Neck and Bloomfield to be vaccinated, regardless of the change.
The executive orders mandating that employees be vaccinated or test regularly were established in August 2021 for school districts and September 2021 for child care centers, according to Gothamist.
Sean Spiller, president of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) told the news outlet, "This is a culmination of people following the science, doing the right thing — doing the hard thing at times — but it's certainly welcome news."
Spiller also said that it was important for individual school districts or child care centers to have the flexibility to create their own policies.
"We've seen it throughout this pandemic that different parts of the state, different communities have been impacted differently than others or certain communities have higher vaccination rates, some lower," he said.
The NJEA president said he was starting to hear from unvaccinated teachers who were reporting that they were being asked to cover testing costs, as school districts exhausted their supplies of federal pandemic funds.
Murphy's executive order also ends the COVID-19 testing program for unvaccinated state employees next month. Healthcare workers and workers in congregate settings or correctional facilities will still need to be up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines, however.
According to the state Department of Health, New Jersey's estimated rate of transmission on Monday was .91, which is an indication of how rapidly the virus spreads. When the rate is less than 1.0, each infected person is believed to be spreading the virus to less than one other person.
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