Sep. 21—Employees of childcare facilities must be vaccinated against the coronavirus by Nov. 1 or agree to weekly testing, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday.

Starting Friday, all children over 2 years old and staff must wear masks, he said, as well as any visitors.

"That brings us no joy, trust me, but it's the right thing to do," he said, speaking at his regular news briefing in Trenton.

The mandate is similar to those Murphy has put in place for health care workers, state employees, and teachers.

Murphy acknowledged it would be challenging at times to ensure young children keep their masks on all day, but said, "We are looking for these setting to provide kids with as much support as necessary to ensure the safest possible environment."

In New Jersey, 22 children are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, Murphy said. A section of the state's coronavirus dashboard with information about outbreaks in schools has not been functional since last week, but Murphy said it would be updated in the coming days with more information.

Currently, children under the age of 12 are not eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine, but Pfizer said Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11 and that it will seek U.S. authorization for this age group soon — a key step toward beginning vaccinations for youngsters. With kids now back in school and the highly transmissible delta variant causing a huge jump in pediatric infections, many parents are anxiously awaiting vaccinations for their younger children.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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