Union seeks order halting new COVID vaccine mandate for N.J. COs

Gov. Phil Murphy criticized those who refuse to get the vaccine as "selfish," likening it to drunk driving


By Matt Gray
NJ.com

TRENTON, N.J. — The state corrections officers union is going to court to seek a restraining order halting enforcement of Gov. Phil Murphy’s newest COVID-19 vaccination mandate for corrections officers, the New Jersey State PBA announced Monday evening.

The move, on behalf of 28 PBA locals, seeks permission from the state appellate court to file for a restraining order halting Murphy’s latest order, signed last week, which applies to state workers in health care and congregate settings, and requires they be vaccinated and receive booster shots.

The new mandate is intended to reduce the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant.
The new mandate is intended to reduce the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant. (Photo/Karin Price Mueller of NJ Advance Media via TNS)

The new mandate is intended to reduce the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant, the order states, and ends the option for employees to seek regular testing instead of vaccination.

This mandate “comes on the heels of the State experiencing a significant decline in the number of positive COVID cases as well as witnessing the transmission rate of the virus decline to below 1.0 for the seventh straight day in a row,” the PBA noted in its announcement.

PBA State President Pat Colligan said the union doesn’t understand what is driving this new move if the danger is declining and called it “extreme and unnecessary.”

“Before Governor Murphy enacted this Executive Order, each and every Correctional Police Department in the State of New Jersey had an extremely vigilant COVID-19 testing policy in place that covered every County Jail and State Prison,” Colligan said in a statement. “It is my understanding that unvaccinated officers and in some cases, even the vaccinated officers were being tested once if not twice weekly for the virus. My members have told me that the testing policies were working well in keeping the prisons and jails as safe as possible.”

New Jersey reported 4,338 new coronavirus cases on Monday, the fewest daily positive tests in nearly six weeks, along with 24 more deaths. Murphy acknowledged Monday that the “omicron tsunami” is continuing to “pull back,” adding that COVID-19 hospitalizations are dropping significantly.

William Sullivan, president of PBA Local 105, which represents more than 5,000 state corrections officers, said he vehemently opposes the new mandate, arguing it has been ineffective in stopping the omicron variant.

“Testing was and still is working, especially in light of the fact that we had close to an equal number of positive cases derived from officers that were fully vaccinated as compared to those that were unvaccinated,” Sullivan said in a statement. “Governor Murphy stated in his press conference that EO #283 was enacted to stop the transmission of Omicron. However, I believe everyone agrees that the science and statistics have demonstrated that the vaccines have been ineffective in stopping the transmission of this variant.”

In comments Monday, Murphy criticized those who refuse to get the vaccine as “selfish,” likening it to drunk driving.

“You’re not only putting yourself at risk, you’re putting other people at risk,” he said.

Murphy’s office declined to comment on the PBA’s announcement Monday night.

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