Walz calls for vaccine and testing requirements for teachers

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Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz floated the idea this week of having Republican legislators join him in authorizing COVID-19 vaccine mandates for teachers and staff along with mask mandates for everyone in schools.

Republicans flatly rejected those proposals so, on Wednesday, the governor highlighted another part of his plan to contain and prevent COVID in schools: making at-home test kids available to students and their families when the student is symptomatic.

"We’re here to highlight the steps that we can take and, again, it’s a very simple principal and goal amongst everyone in that building and everyone in our administration, is to keep students and staff in schools learning, enjoying and doing the things they need to do and keep them safe from COVID," the governor said after a short tour of Carver Elementary, in Maplewood, on Wednesday.

Walz urged lawmakers to approve the measures during a special session that was originally envisioned for last month to approve a $250 million bonus package for front-line workers who risked their lives in the pandemic. Negotiations on that plan have yet to produce an agreement.

Republicans say they have no problem with testing in schools but the governor is still angered by the fact they won’t even consider further steps like vaccines and masks.

"I get it, you don’t like this plan," Walz said of his vaccine and mask mandates. "What is yours? Doing nothing kills people. Doing nothing shuts down buildings. Doing nothing avoids the science that we have."

Walz and the legislature are still trying to figure out an agreement for front-line worker bonus pay, drought relief and possibly other issues to be considered in a special session sometime in October.

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.