Updated: Sep 8, 2022
Assemblywomen Kim Eulner and Marilyn Piperno argue it’s time to drop the onerous Covid-19 testing and vaccine requirements in schools following a top health official’s statement rejecting more mandates and amid the statewide teacher shortage.
In an interview with NJ Spotlight News, state health commissioner Judy Persichilli said that New Jerseyans should learn to live with the virus and that “we can’t keep mandating, mandating, mandating” Covid vaccines and masks.
“Covid is unfortunately here to stay and people must accept the fact that the onus is on them to protect themselves as they see fit. Government mandates are ineffective, costly and discriminatory,” Eulner (R-Monmouth) said. “The vaccination rate among teachers is at least 85%, and for older children ages 12 to 17, the vaccination rate is about 74%. We dropped the mask mandate in March without any health consequences. It’s time to drop the remaining Covid mandates in our schools.”
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, New Jersey is one of 10 states and Washington, D.C. that has a vaccine mandate for school employees. Under executive order No. 253, all part-time and full-time employees of public and private schools are required to be fully vaccinated or submit to a minimum of weekly Covid testing.
The Health Department requires unvaccinated teachers and staff to be tested for Covid weekly when community transmission levels are low and medium and twice weekly when they are high. Students who are unvaccinated must be screened weekly when Covid levels reach medium and high levels. Those who are unvaccinated and participating in sports must follow a different set of more stringent testing rules.
“Our teachers and students are still reeling from the consequences of two years of learning loss, mask mandates and other Covid restrictions. These Covid mandates are disruptive and unnecessary, and arguably harmful,” Piperno (R-Monmouth) said. “As we prepare to send our children back to school, we need to restore a sense of normalcy in that setting and that starts by rescinding the remaining executive orders.”
The lawmakers also contend that executive orders related to the pandemic are partly fueling the teacher shortage in the state.
“If we are going to properly address the teacher shortage, we have to look at why people are retiring or leaving the profession. The Murphy administration’s remote learning and school shutdown orders are at least somewhat responsible for the mass exodus of educators,” Eulner and Piperno said. “Teachers should be credited for New Jersey’s reputation for a high-quality education system, not punished for making personal choices regarding vaccinations.”