Negative test, regardless of vax status

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TRENTON – Access to the State Assembly Hall for next week’s Monday voting session and Tuesday’s reorganization meeting will require a negative COVID test whether or not someone is vaccinated.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin announced the revised policy on Friday. This could help avoid a repeat of last month’s confrontations, in which opponents of a vaccine or test rule avoided state soldiers to enter for a session, then slowed down the process at a breakneck pace during the next session with long speeches.

Coughlin, D-Middlesex, cited record increases in COVID-19 infections as a cause for caution.

“The pandemic has challenged us all,” Coughlin said. “But I will not compromise when it comes to the health and safety of members of the legislature and the public in the conduct of the business of the people.”

The change partly reflects that many fully vaccinated and stimulated people are infected with the omicron variant of the virus, although their symptoms tend to be milder than in unvaccinated people.

The Assembly reorganization session, in which all 80 members are sworn in, including new members elected in November, takes place at the nearby Trenton War Memorial to ensure there is room for a large number of guests.

Under the new policy, a negative COVID-19 rapid test performed after noon Saturday will be required of anyone intending to attend meetings on Monday or Tuesday. Members and staff will need to certify to their respective house management that they have a negative COVID-19 test.

A rapid test site will be available at the Statehouse on Monday for Assembly members and staff who were unable to be pre-tested and again on Tuesday for all lawmakers and new members’ guests for the reorganization ceremony .

A phone line will be available to allow those who cannot attend the Monday session or who test positive to participate and attend.

The Assembly gallery will be closed to the public and the session can be viewed live online. Reporters covering the sessions will have to comply with the testing rule.

Michael Symons is the State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at [email protected].

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