More pushback about vaccine and testing mandate for state workers

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The Minnesota Senate held a hearing Thursday to take a closer look at the state policy regarding COVID-19 vaccine and testing requirements for 36,000 state workers. Under the policy, any staff member who works in an office setting who is fully vaccinated does not have to go through COVID testing. Anyone not vaccinated must get tested weekly.

"Consistent with OSHA guidance regular COVID-19 testing for employees who have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will mitigate our risk to our employees and the Minnesotans that they serve," testified Kristin Batson, the deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Management and Budget agency.

But some Republican senators questioned a policy that encourages state workers to turn over personal health information regarding their vaccination status on official state forms.

"While they use the word ‘encouraged’ in the form, it feels like there’s pressure and duress in order to get the form signed and I find that disturbing that we’re treating our state employees like that," said Sen. Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake).

One state employee who testified said many state workers are considering leaving their jobs because of the policies.

"I have co-workers tell me they’re having trouble sleeping," testified Melissa Shultz, a Minnesota Department of Transportation worker. "That they’re having anxiety attacks. I have them say they’re struggling reoccurrences of PTSD that are all directly related to these policies and concerns about where it’s headed from here."

State officials say they will continue to review the policies and make changes as necessary.