(The Center Square) – Gov. Tim Walz announced all state agency employees working in person will be required to show proof of vaccination or get tested weekly before returning to the workplace by Sept. 8.
Unvaccinated employees must receive a negative COVID-19 test at least once a week to work on-site at all public workplaces statewide.
“Vaccination is the best way to keep employees and the people we serve safe and ensure the Delta variant does not derail our economic recovery,” Walz said in a statement. “The state is leading by example and working to get our public employees vaccinated to protect themselves, their coworkers, and their communities. With this action, we’re joining businesses and colleges across the state who have taken this important step, and I urge other employers to do the same.”
Minnesota joins a growing list of private-sector employers requiring vaccinations. Major employers, including Mayo Clinic, Allina Health, M Health Fairview, and Sanford Health, are requiring employees to be vaccinated. The same applies for nearly a dozen Minnesota colleges and universities.
“Vaccination is the best tool we have available to minimize the impacts of COVID-19 and protect our workers, our organizations and our communities,” Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in a statement. “We encourage all Minnesotans to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.”
Minnesota’s vaccination or weekly testing requirement for state agency employees comes as the state sees an increase in COVID-19 cases. New cases are up 574% per week from one month ago, driven mainly by the delta variant.
The overwhelming majority of these cases are among unvaccinated Minnesotans, with less than 0.2% of fully vaccinated Minnesotans testing positive for COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 72.8% of Minnesota adults have at least one dose, with 54.3% of having completed their vaccine series. A recent CDC study indicates unvaccinated people are 2.34 times more likely to be reinfected than those who are fully vaccinated.
Minnesotans who get their first dose of vaccine through August 15 are eligible to receive a $100 Visa gift card.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, opposed the mandate, calling it “divisive and unproductive.”
“The mandate issued by Gov. Walz requiring a vaccine or weekly testing on state employees does not apply to the Minnesota Senate,” Gazelka said in a statement. “Instead of mandates, we will continue our policy of allowing staff and members to work remotely, and those who want to can wear a mask and get vaccinated. I believe this approach protects safety and freedom together. Our priority continues to be finding this important balance.”