New Jersey coronavirus update: Newark to require COVID vaccines for all city employees

Coronavirus Update New Jersey
NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- Newark will require all city employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or face possible termination, according to an executive order obtained by Eyewitness News.

Workers must provide physical proof of receiving the shot in the form of a valid CDC vaccination card, and anyone not yet vaccinated will have 30 days to to do so.

During that 30 day period, unvaccinated workers will have to provide a valid negative test every Tuesday until he or she is fully vaccinated.

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Rapid test results will not be accepted, only PCR.

The employee will be responsible for the testing, which must be done on the employee's own time, and anyone who fails to provide a test will be sent home and unable to work until a negative test is obtained.

The worker will not be paid for missed days, and failure to comply will result in discipline and ultimately termination.

The only exceptions to full vaccination are a religious or medical exemption, both of which will require certification signed under penalty of perjury.

Masks are also mandatory in all city buildings, regardless of vaccination status.

"Requiring our municipal workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine is about protecting the health and well-being of our municipal team, their families, as well as the residents and visitors they come into contact with," Mayor Ras Baraka said. "As positive cases of coronavirus are rising again, due to the highly contagious delta variant, we need to take whatever steps necessary to safeguard and ensure everyone's safety. The mandatory vaccine is subject to medical and religious exemptions. The introduction and enforcement of this requirement is purely intended and designed to combat a dreadful pandemic that we have been fighting against for more than a year."

The executive order takes effect on Monday, August 16, but the State Employment Relations Commission issued temporary restraint for the order. There will be hearing later this month.

The police and fire unions say the city's order was not just strict, but sudden. They'd anticipated some sort of vaccine mandate, but they were hoping they could discuss it first.

"We demanded to negotiate over the impact issues," said Captain John J. Chrystal, with the Newark Police Superior Officers Association. "We want to sit down. We're reasonable people. We want to sit down and work this out with the city, but the mayor just issued the order without any input without even negotiating with any of the unions."

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Unions leaders say cases are lower than they've ever been since the start of the pandemic in both departments, and they credit existing protocols.

"In our opinion, we have been doing what we were supposed to do to keep ourselves and our citizens safe for the last year and a half," said Charles West, with the Newark Firefighters Union.

They will make their cases at that hearing at the end of this month, but they say their rank and file members have a lot of questions they can't answer. And while many member have already been vaccinated, some who have not are passionate about it. They say there's no way they'll be vaccinated within 30 days, but they also don't want to lose their jobs over it.

They are willing to undergo weekly testing and believe that should be an option instead of a blanket mandate.

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