TRENTON – Masks wouldn’t be required in schools and COVID vaccinations wouldn’t be required more generally at the state level if Jack Ciattarelli is elected governor, the candidate said in an hour-long visit to the New Jersey 101.5 studio Thursday.

Ciattarelli told afternoon hosts Jeff Deminski and Bill Doyle he wouldn’t support a vaccine mandate or use ‘vaccine passports’ as proof of vaccination for entry to venues or transportation.

“Listen, I’m vaccinated. I promoted my vaccination. I encourage people to get vaccinated,” Ciattarelli said. “At the same time, I’ve never felt that government has a right to tell anybody they have to ingest a medicine or a vaccine. So, I’m all about medical freedom and bodily autonomy.”

Ciattarelli, whose appearance wrapped up shortly before President Joe Biden’s address on new COVID-related responses, questioned the wisdom of the president's directive that will require private employers with at least 100 employees to mandate vaccines or weekly COVID tests.

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“So, in other words, if you have 90 employees, it doesn’t apply to you?” said the Republican. “This reminds me very much of all the inconsistencies in Phil Murphy’s executive orders that we saw throughout the pandemic, which really infuriated people.”

Ciattarelli said he would advocate as governor against private-sector vaccine mandates but wouldn’t tell employers they couldn’t do that.

“I don’t want to see anybody lose their job, but you know the antithesis of conservativism is government telling employers what their personnel policies should be,” he said.

Ciattarelli was asked what he meant when he said in an interview on the “Shore Show” with Pat O’Melia that “children are not vulnerable to this virus” – an assertion criticized by health experts and jumped on by Murphy’s campaign and other Democrats.

Ciattarelli said he was referencing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis on the coronavirus as it was known in 2020.

“Of course, what has emerged since that interview is something we now know as the delta variant. And we do know that children are more susceptible to the delta variant,” Ciattarelli said. “The good news here in New Jersey is three out of four adults are vaccinated. And what we’re seeing across the country is that those states that have a high vaccination rate, children tend to be less vulnerable.”

The “Shore Show” interview aired Aug. 19. It didn’t air live and it’s unclear when it was taped.

Ciattarelli said that it will similarly be a parental decision as to whether a child wears a mask in school.

“I’m all about promoting, preserving and protecting the public health and safety, but I just think this administration and Phil Murphy in particular has been an infringement on parental rights, through and through,” Ciattarelli said.

“I just believe that whether or not a student wears a mask to school should be left up to parents and custodians,” he said. “We’re going to give our citizens all the information they need to make an informed decision, but then we’re going to let parents decide.”

Ciattarelli said his first order of business as governor would be related to masks.

“Let me say this. The first thing I’ll do in executive order No. 1, I’ll have the state of New Jersey stop collecting sales tax on masks,” he said.

During the interview, which included questions from callers, Ciattarelli also addressed the Ida storm, public worker pensions, immigration, property taxes and working with what’s likely to be a Democrat-controlled Legislature.

Gov. Phil Murphy, the Democratic nominee, has been invited for a similar hour-long interview with Deminski and Doyle.

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