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COVID-19 Vaccine Or Weekly Testing Mandatory For All New Jersey Teachers, School Staff, Phil Murphy Says

TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) -- New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday the COVID-19 vaccine is mandatory for all teachers and staff in grades preschool to Grade 12. Any employee who doesn't comply with the mandate by Oct. 18 will be subject to testing at a minimum of one to two times per week.

"Scientific data shows that vaccination and testing requirements, coupled with strong masking policies, are the best tools for keeping our schools and communities safe for in-person activities," Governor Murphy said. "As the school year rapidly approaches, my Administration is continuing to do all that we can to ensure a safe, full-time, in-person learning environment for our students, many of whom are not yet eligible for vaccination. Additionally, it is critically important to extend our vaccination and testing requirement to our State employees, so that they can continue to safely provide vital government services for the benefit of all New Jerseyans. We will continue to work collaboratively with school officials, teachers unions, and public-sector union partners over the next several weeks as this new requirement goes into effect."

The Garden State is among the first in the nation to enact this type of mandate joining others including California and Connecticut.

The requirement comes in an effort to protect students in school settings against the spread of COVID-19 and the highly transmissible Delta variant.

"No one wants to be back in the classroom with their students more than educators, and student safety is our number one priority," said National Education Association President Becky Pringle. "NEA has said from the beginning that we need to follow the science, and evidence shows that COVID-19 vaccines, combined with other mitigation strategies, are the most powerful weapon we have against the pandemic. We applaud Gov. Murphy for putting students and educators' health first and keeping New Jersey's schools safe."

Sean Spiller is Vice President of the New Jersey Education Association, which represents 200,000 school employees across the state.

"We know the value of in-person instruction and the best way to do that in the safest way as possible is to have vaccinations where you can and testing if you've got someone who isn't vaccinated," Spiller said.

Students will not be required to get vaccinated, but a 7th grader at Voorhees Middle School got her COVID-19 shot. She's glad teachers will be required to do the same.

"I think it's a good idea so everyone stays safe and we don't have COVID outbreaks in school," Addison Kiesel said.

A spokesperson for New Jersey's top teacher's union called the measure "appropriate and responsible."

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the Philadelphia School Board has scheduled a special session to vote on a local mandate to require all staff to be vaccinated. 

 "The decision has not been made yet on whether we will mandate them for all staff," Dr. William Hite, the Superintendent of the Philadelphia School District, said. "However I am strongly a proponent of mandating for all staff."

The Federation of Teachers already has their support. Some religious and medical exemptions would apply.

Tuesday's meeting is virtual and open to the public at 5 p.m. Philadelphia School District students head back to class on Sept. 2.

In other vaccine-related news, the Food and Drug Administration could give full approval to Pfizer's COVID-19 shot on Monday, according to the New York Times.

The approval could boost the vaccination campaign and convince more unvaccinated Americans that Pfizer's shot is safe and effective.

The U.S. Military is expected to require that servicemembers get vaccinated soon after Pfizer's shot is authorized.

CBS3's Alicia Roberts and Matt Petrillo contributed to this report.

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