Monday, October 18, was the deadline set by Gov. Phil Murphy for all public school staff in New Jersey to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing. According to Superintendent Dr. Rui Dionisio, 90% of Verona’s staff met the vaccine deadline. The rest will be continuously tested, beginning this week. Dionisio said that no Verona school personnel had resigned because of the vaccine mandate.
The district had partnered with Vanguard Medical Group in Verona for an employee vaccination program, and had encouraged parents to also use the medical practice for student vaccinations if their child was 12 or older. Students in that age group who have not have a submitted vaccination card to the district are, under the district’s COVID policy, assumed to be unvaccinated.
Verona’s public schools have seen some positive cases of COVID-19 since they reopened for the 2021-2022 school year, but far fewer than last year, when schools were largely virtual and vaccines against the novel coronavirus were not yet available. According to the district’s COVID dashboard, which is updated daily, there are just seven quarantines in the school community now, including students, teachers, staff and administrators, with most of the quarantines at Laning Avenue elementary school. Under the district’s COVID protocol for this year, anyone in a school building must be masked. The schools are keeping students at least 3 feet apart and school hallways can be designated for one-way traffic to minimize contact.
According to the state COVID dashboard, 73% of all Verona residents are now fully vaccinated against the virus, including 60% of those 12 to 17. The vaccination rate among Veronans 65 and older is 82%.
As of this morning, 1,159 Verona residents have tested positive for COVID-19 since Essex County began keeping records last year. Verona’s rate of new COVID positives has slowed substantially since last year, but the county data notes that the actual number of infected individuals in any municipality is likely to be much greater than reported because County data only includes individuals whose lab results have been reported to the state.
Eighteen Verona residents have died from COVID-19, and the virus was the third leading cause of death here last year.