Essex County Sheriff Kevin Coppinger announced Tuesday that all department employees, vendors, and volunteers will be required to show proof of vaccination by early January as the department experiences a spike in COVID-19 cases.
As of Tuesday, there are 96 active COVID-19 cases within the sheriff’s department, including 59 incarcerated individuals, 36 employees, and one vendor, said Gretchen Grosky, a spokeswoman for the Essex County sheriff’s department.
All sheriff’s department employees will be required to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 before Jan. 4, 2022, Coppinger said in a statement. Medical and religious exemptions for the shot will be considered by the department, he said.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is the most effective tool we have to ensure the health and safety of all within our facilities, which is why this Department will be moving ahead with a vaccination mandate,” Coppinger said. “We are a congregate care setting, and as such, we must make sure everyone has the vaccination to protect not only themselves and fellow staff, but to also protect every person that we provide care and custody for.”
Of the department’s total 568 employees, 72% are already vaccinated against COVID-19, Coppinger said.
There have been 4,051 positive COVID-19 cases detected in Essex County over the past two weeks, accumulating to a 4.42% positivity rate during that time frame, according to state health data released on Nov. 17..
Coppinger attributed the department’s rise in positive cases to the Delta variant, which “causes more infections and spreads faster than early forms of SAR-CoV-1, the virus that causes COVID-19,” according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Essex County Sheriff’s department has one of the largest incarcerated populations of any department in the state, Coppinger said, holding about 1,100 incarcerated persons a day.
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