The COVID-19 vaccine rollout has dominated legislative sessions this winter, along with other events and pieces of legislation.
New Jersey opened six coronavirus vaccination “mega-sites” across the state as it rolls out inoculations in phases, with an aim to vaccinate 70 percent (4.7 million adults)1 of its adult residents within six months. The state is also setting up a large network of satellite vaccination sites, including hospitals, health and urgent care centers, chain pharmacies and local sites.
The state is administering vaccines in designated phases. These phases are tentative and subject to change. Updates are posted on the NJ COVID-19 Information Hub.2 At the time of this writing, the phases are designated as follows:
Healthcare Personnel: Paid and unpaid persons serving in healthcare settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials.
Long-Term Care Residents and Staff: All residents and staff of long-term and congregate care facilities.
First Responders: Sworn law enforcement, firefighters and other first responders.
Individuals at High Risk: Individuals age 65 and older, and individuals age 16–64 with medical conditions, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that increase the risk of severe illness from the virus. These conditions include cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Down syndrome, heart conditions (such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies), obesity, sickle cell disease, smoking and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Who is eligible for vaccination next?
- Additional essential workers (Phases 1B and/or 1C)
- Additional individuals at high risk (Phases 1B and/or 1C)
- General population (Phase 2)
New Jersey Legislation
Assembly Bill No. 2308/ Senate Bill No. 31453: This bill, sponsored by Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Gordon Johnson in the Assembly and Linda Greenstein and Nellie Pou in the Senate, has been called the Maiden Name Legislation. This legislation clarifies current state policy requiring an individual to list a legal name on an application when initially applying for or renewing, reactivating or reinstating a professional or occupational license, certificate of registration or certificate.
This legislation requires applications for a professional and occupational license, certificate of registration or certificate to include a line allowing an individual to list a professional name, a line for the individual to list a legal name, if different from the professional name, and the ability for the individual to choose which name is to appear on the license, certificate of registration or certificate.
The bill would allow individuals who practice a specific profession or occupation by one name to retain that name should the individual’s legal name change. Allowing an individual who has built a business under one name to continue using it even if the surname of the individual legally changes will prevent confusion among consumers who are clients of that individual. It will also allow the individual to forgo any additional costs required to obtain an updated license, certificate of registration or certification, and to update any business website, advertising or marketing.
“This issue impacts women the most, since more than 70 percent of women who get married choose to change their last names. Women should be given the option to keep practicing under their maiden name in order to avoid any unnecessary confusion, expense or hassle they would otherwise encounter,” said Assembly members Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Gordon Johnson.4
Majority Leader Weinberg Retires
State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg—one of New Jersey’s most influential lawmakers, the highest-ranking woman in the state Legislature and self-described “feisty Jewish grandmother”—announced on January 13, 2021, that she will retire, after a nearly 30-year career in Trenton, when her term ends in January 2022.
Senator Weinberg has sponsored laws that have generated more than $20 million for autism research, required insurance companies to pay for at least 48 hours of hospital care for new mothers and lowered the legal alcohol blood level for drivers to .08. She also sponsored the law prohibiting smoking in indoor public places and workplaces, as well as the state’s anti-bullying law and the law allowing lesbian and gay couples to marry. The Majority Leader is also known for having had co-chaired the Legislative Select Committee on Investigation that examined the unlawful closing of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in September 2013.5
Senate President Sweeney released the following statement: “Loretta Weinberg is the Lioness of the New Jersey Senate. She is fearless in speaking her mind and standing up for her beliefs, and she is selfless in fighting for the needs of others, especially those who face disadvantages or experience hardship. Loretta embodies the ideals of public service, and the lives of countless people are better for it. From marriage equality, to pay equity for women and minorities, paid family leave, gun safety, government ethics, the rights of sexual assault survivors, and the responsibilities of public transit agencies to serve riders and motorists, she has made a lasting impact.”6
New Jersey Legislative District 18 Special Election
On January 12, 2021, East Brunswick Councilman Sterley Stanley won a special election for the 18th District Assembly seat, becoming the first South Asian to represent Middlesex County in the New Jersey Legislature. Stanley, a Democrat, defeated fellow Democrat, Edison Councilman Joe Coyle, in the race for the seat vacated by Nancy Pinkin, who resigned after she was elected Middlesex County Clerk.7 The 18th District includes seven communities in Middlesex County: East Brunswick, Edison, Helmetta, Highland Park, Metuchen, South Plainfield and South River.8
Under Pennsylvania’s vaccine rollout plan, residents are eligible for vaccination in three phases. Up-to-date information on the rollout can be accessed on the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s COVID-19 Vaccines website.9
Frontline Healthcare Workers: One million frontline healthcare workers are prioritized in Phase 1A. Doses are available in this phase to those most at risk of illness, such as medical workers who have direct patient contact and those who work in a COVID-19 unit.
Long-term Care Residents and Staff: Pennsylvanians living in long-term care facilities (LTCFs) and their staff.
By Age: Persons age 65 and older and those age 16–64 with high-risk conditions.
Congregate Settings: People in congregate settings not otherwise specified as LTCFs and persons receiving home and community-based services. First responders, correctional officers and other workers serving people in congregate care settings not included in Phase 1A.
Essential Workers I: Food and agricultural workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, education workers, clergy and other essential support for houses of worship, public transit workers and individuals caring for children or adults in early childhood and adult day programs.
Essential Workers II: Workers in transportation and logistics; water and wastewater; food service; housing construction; finance, including bank tellers; information technology; communications; energy, including nuclear reactors; legal services; federal, state, county and local government workers, including county election workers, elected officials and members of the judiciary and their staff; media; public safety and public health workers.
All individuals not previously covered who are 16 and older and do not have a contraindication to the vaccine.
On December 13, 2020, Governor Ned Lamont announced that Connecticut’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group’s Science Subcommittee had recommended that the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan start at the earliest opportunity. The recommendation came after the subcommittee reviewed all available scientific and trial data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the FDA’s Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee report, clinical trial information provided by Pfizer and BioNTech, and peer-reviewed scientific publications about the vaccine and its clinical testing. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also voted to recommend the vaccine for individuals over 16.10
Governor Lamont accepted the subcommittee’s recommendations for the following phases that are updated on the state’s CT COVID-19 Vaccine: Phases and Eligibility webpage.11
Healthcare Personnel: All paid and unpaid persons serving in healthcare settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials. Healthcare personnel should contact their Employer Coordinator, who has been designated to ensure access to the vaccine. Vaccine administration for healthcare workers will be available at hospitals, outpatient clinics and local health departments.
Long-Term Care Facility Residents: Adults who reside in facilities that provide a range of services, including medical and personal care, to persons who are unable to live independently. All vaccine clinics in long-term care facilities will be administered by CVS and Walgreens.
Medical First Responders: Those with high risk of exposure to COVID-19 through their response to medical emergencies such as emergency medical technicians, police and firefighters.
Residents and staff of select congregate settings: Those eligible in congregate settings include individuals and staff in halfway homes, inpatient mental health facilities, corrections facilities, homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, substance use and residential treatment facilities along with others.
Individuals 65 years and older.
Likely in March: Frontline essential workers. The final definition is forthcoming, but is likely to include healthcare personnel and first responders not included in Phase 1A, as well as agricultural workers, including farmworkers, food service and restaurants; U.S. Postal Service workers; manufacturing workers; grocery store and pharmacy workers; public transit workers; food banks and meal delivery service providers for the elderly; education and child-care workers; solid waste and wastewater workers; inspectors working on site in the locations above, and frontline public and social services.
Individuals with an underlying medical condition with increased risk for severe illness.
Likely in Summer and Fall: Eligible members of the general public.
Vaccine Religious Exemptions in Connecticut
In February 2020, just a month before the COVID-19 shutdown in Connecticut, a 20-hour public hearing drew thousands of anti-vaccination protesters to the Capitol.12 Following a record-breaking measles outbreak in 2019, the state’s Department of Public Health said a growing percentage of religious exemptions to vaccines could create pockets of vulnerability throughout the state, and lawmakers moved to curtail those exemptions for schoolchildren.
Although some lawmakers believe the General Assembly will avoid making a move on the highly controversial subject of eliminating the religious exemption for vaccinations in 2021,13 others say the COVID-19 pandemic raises the importance of vaccinations for improving public health.
Rhode Island is vaccinating using a primarily age-based approach, with accelerated distribution to individuals in the most vulnerable geographies and individuals with health conditions known to put them at higher risk. This timeline is based on expected vaccine supply over time. The timeline may change based on supply or demand for vaccine. For weekly updates, see the COVID-19: Who is Getting Vaccinated this Week spreadsheet.
Rhode Island’s COVID-19 mass vaccination campaign will be conducted in three main phases14:
High-risk healthcare workers and first responders.
Individuals with significant comorbid conditions and older adults in congregate or overcrowded settings.
K–12 teachers, school staff, and childcare providers, critical workers in high-risk settings, people with moderate comorbid conditions, people in homeless shelters or group homes and staff, incarcerated or detained people and facility staff.
When there is sufficient supply of vaccine, and demand slows, Phase 3 will prioritize young adults, children and workers in industries important to the functioning of society.
Healthcare workers, first responders and nursing home residents and staff will be the first to receive the vaccine in Maryland. Vaccine supply is dependent on the federal government’s allocation to Maryland and is subject to change.15 Updates can be found at Maryland COVID-19 Vaccine Priority Groups. Additionally, Marylanders can receive updates from Maryland’s 211 text alert system by texting “MDReady” to 898-211.
All licensed, registered and certified healthcare providers; nursing home residents and staff; law enforcement, and firefighters, Emergency Medical Service (EMS) and other first responders; correctional healthcare staff and officers; and frontline judiciary staff. Approximately 500,000+ individuals.
Maryland residents who are 75 years and older; Marylanders in assisted living, independent living, developmental disabilities/behavioral health group homes and other congregate facilities; high-risk incarcerated individuals; individuals necessary to the continuity of government vaccinations; and education workers, including K–12 teachers, support staff and daycare providers. Approximately 860,000+ individuals.
Adults age 65–74; public health and safety workers not covered in Phase 1A; and essential workers in lab services, food/agriculture production, manufacturing, the U.S. Postal Service, public transit and grocery stores. Approximately 772,000 individuals.
Adults 16–64 at increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness due to comorbidities; essential workers in critical utilities, transportation, logistics, infrastructure, food service, etc.; and incarcerated adults. Approximately 1.1 million individuals.
General population, including healthy adults age 16–64. Approximately 4 million individuals.
Handling the effects of the coronavirus pandemic will be the top priority during the 2021 session. Lawmakers will be introducing legislation to combat health, economic and social disparities that were amplified because of the pandemic.
Senate Bill No. 3/House Bill No. 123, Preserve Telehealth Access Act of 202116: This bill is sponsored by Senator Melony Griffith and Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk. At the beginning of the pandemic, approximately 40 percent of Marylanders delayed getting medical care because of the coronavirus, and more than 30 percent needed medical care for some reason unrelated to COVID-19 but did not get it, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.17
During the pandemic, Governor Larry Hogan announced the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Protection Act, which ordered the state’s Department of Health to reimburse Medicaid telehealth services for patients with COVID-19. The bill would help make expanded access to telehealth coverage permanent.
Senate Bill No. 5, Implicit Bias Training and the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities18: This bill, sponsored by Senator Melony Griffith, would mandate healthcare professionals receive implicit bias training and require the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities to publish an annual report card on healthcare disparities. The report card would include analysis of racial and ethnic variations in insurance coverage for low-income, non-elderly individuals; comparisons of the racial and ethnic composition of the state’s physicians to the state’s population; and data on disparities in morbidity and mortality rates for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, infant mortality, asthma and other diseases identified by the Maryland Healthcare Commission. The bill comes with a $1.7 million price tag starting in 2023.
Senate Bill No. 1219: This bill, sponsored by Senator Shelly Hettleman, would make the Inspector General for Health independent from the state’s Health Department. In April 2020, Governor Hogan secured 500,000 COVID-19 test kits from South Korea,20 but later in the year came under fire when the Washington Post uncovered that the kits were incomplete and ultimately never used. The state’s Health Department representatives and procurement officers were unable to answer questions posed by lawmakers during investigative hearings. The legislation would require that the Inspector General have access to the department’s information technology, budget and finances, and procurement and support services.
Governor Ralph Northam set an initial goal of vaccinating 25,000 Virginians each day when supply allows. Medical facilities will be required to put the vaccine they receive into arms as soon as possible or risk having future vaccine allotments reduced. Governor Northam appointed Dr. Danny Avula, who serves as Director of the Richmond City and Henrico County Health Departments, to coordinate work among state officials, local health departments, hospitals and private providers.22
Updated information can be found the Virginia Department of Health’s site: VDH COVID-19 Vaccination Response.
Healthcare personnel and residents and staff of long-term care facilities. These include behavioral health providers, community health workers, dental assistants, hygienists, dentists, EMT/first responders serving as EMT extenders, environmental services staff, healthcare trainees, home health workers, human service providers, laboratorians, mortuary service providers (e.g., morticians/funeral home staff), nurses, nursing assistants, optometrists, personal care aides, pharmacists, pharmacy techs and staff, physicians, physician assistants, public-facing public health workers, radiological techs (and other diagnostic/therapeutic techs), respiratory, physical, speech and occupational techs and social workers.
Frontline essential workers, people age 65 years and older, people living in correctional facilities, homeless shelters and migrant labor camps and people age 16 through 64 years with a high-risk medical condition or disability that increases their risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
Other essential workers in energy, water, wastewater and waste removal (includes recycling removal workers), housing construction, food service, transportation and logistics, institutions of higher education faculty/staff, finance, information technology and communication, media, legal services, public safety (engineers) and other public health workers.
Note: The general population will be added as they get through the initial phases, and more supply is added.
Governor Jim Justice outlined that there will be two main phases of vaccine allocation. Phase 1 will include those at the highest risk of serious complications from COVID-19, as well as individuals who are essential frontline workers fighting this pandemic. Phase 2 is the general population.23
Up-to-date vaccine information can be found on the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine website.
Hospital workers (acute care and airway specialists), long-term residents and employees, and pharmacists.
Community infrastructure workers, emergency response workers, public health officials and first responders.
Remaining hospital workers, staff in clinics and other higher-risk settings, and home/hospice healthcare workers.
Teachers, and other sectors for critical services to the state, continuity of government, utility workers and transportation workers.
In December 2020, Governor John Carney welcomed the arrival of the first shipment of the vaccine. “The vaccine will provide our front-line health care workers with the protection they need while caring for Delawareans who have contracted the virus. The vaccine’s arrival does not mean we are in the clear. In fact, now more than ever, we need to step up our efforts to keep each other safe. That means wear a mask, wash your hands, and do not gather with your friends and family outside of your household. We know that’s hard, particularly at this time of year, but we are almost through this. We just need to stand firm in our resolve to beat the virus,” said Governor Carney.24
Delaware Division of Public Health has devised the following four-tier strategy for distribution.25 More information and updates can be found on the Delaware Vaccination Timeline webpage.
Healthcare personnel with direct patient contact and care, emergency medical services agencies and long-term care staff and residents.
Persons age 65 and older, as well as those considered frontline essential workers, including police, firefighters, teachers, child care providers, food processing workers, correctional officers and postal service, public transit and grocery workers.
Persons age 16 – 64 with high-risk medical conditions (obesity, diabetes, COPD, heart condition, chronic kidney condition, cancer, smoking, solid organ transplant, sickle cell disease, intellectual/developmental disabilities, severe and persistent mental/behavioral health conditions).
Persons living in high-risk group settings, such as correctional facilities, homeless shelters and group homes.
Other essential workers in transportation and logistics, food service, shelter and housing (construction), finance, IT and communications, energy, media, legal, public safety (engineers), water and wastewater.
Persons age 50–64, persons age 16–49 with moderate-risk medical conditions, workers in in-group settings who did not receive vaccine in the earlier phases, and essential workers not able to work from home at all times.
Moderate-risk medical conditions including asthma (moderate-to-severe), cerebrovascular disease, cystic fibrosis, hypertension, immunocompromised state, neurologic conditions, liver disease, overweight, pulmonary fibrosis and thalassemia.
Persons age 16 – 49 and essential workers not receiving the vaccine in Phase 2.
Anyone who has not already received the vaccine in previous phases.
The District of Columbia will implement a phased approach to vaccination, noting that each phase does not have to be fully vaccinated before the state moves on to the next phase.26 Updated information can be found on the DC Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine website page.
Long-term-care residents, healthcare personnel (including veterinary medicine), firefighters and emergency medical personnel and frontline public health workers.
DC residents age 65 and older, correctional officers, staff working in congregate settings (intermediate-care facilities, community residential facilities, group homes, homeless shelters) and non-healthcare personnel supporting operations of COVID-19 vaccination clinics.
Correctional facilities and detention centers, law enforcement/public safety, all staff working in K–12 educational facilities, all staff working in childcare facilities and all staff working in grocery stores.
Staff working in courts and individuals providing legal services, individuals working in health, human services and/or social services outreach programs, frontline employees of public mass transit, individuals employed in manufacturing, individuals working in food packaging and distribution and employees of the U.S. Postal Service.
DC residents age 16 and older with a chronic medical condition with increased risk of complications for COVID-19 and/or a chronic medical condition as defined by their healthcare provider, staff working in food service, essential employees in local government agencies, essential employees of public utilities, essential employees in non-government health, human, and social services organizations/agencies and individuals working in commercial and residential property maintenance and environmental services.
Individuals working in non-public transit transportation services (i.e., for-hire vehicles, ride share), individuals working in logistics/delivery/courier services and essential employees working in media and mass communications.
All essential employees of institutes of higher education, in construction, in information technology, in federal government agencies and individuals working in commercial and residential property management.
All DC residents age 16 and older not included in previous phases.