Manufacturing employees, who state officials have classified as essential since the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, need to also be given priority when the state announces which groups of New Jersey residents are next eligible to receive the vaccine.
That was the message from Michael Womack of the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program (NJMEP) during the New Jersey Business Coalition’s recent virtual town hall meeting that explored what businesses need to survive the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Manufacturers have been working every single day during the pandemic, producing critical components, equipment, and products businesses need,” Womack said. “To ensure the supply chain doesn’t unravel, we need our people at work and able to perform.”
When the pandemic began in March of 2020, manufacturing facilities and their employees were exempted from the governor’s executive orders that mandated the closure of non-essential businesses. Today, some manufacturers are busier than ever because they have retooled their facilities to produce desperately needed personal protective equipment (PPE), Womack said.
“If an outbreak occurs, that piece of the supply chain shuts down, which will impact countless other businesses downstream,” Womack said. For this reason, manufacturing workers need to be prioritized in the next distribution phase of the vaccine, he said.
Due to the COVID-19 vaccine shortage the state has limited vaccines to healthcare personnel (Phase 1A), long-term care patients and staff (Phase 1A), first-responders (Phase 1B) and high-risk individuals, such as individuals age 65 or older or people of any age with certain medical conditions (Phase 1B). The state’s online COVID-19 information hub says future vaccine distribution phases will include “other essential workers,” but no announcement has been made so far about who those essential workers might be.
The New Jersey Business Coalition’s “State of New Jersey Business” online town hall provided an opportunity for business owners and coalition members to discuss the current and future needs of the business community. More than 150 people attended the virtual event on Jan. 11, including a dozen state legislators and administration officials who were also on the call.
To watch Womack’s complete presentation, go here or click on the video below.