Walz introduces vaccine requirement for Minnesota state employees

Minnesota state employees will be required to show proof of vaccination or get tested regularly before returning to the workplace, Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday.

Employees working in person will be required to show proof of vaccination and attest to their vaccination status by Sept. 8. Those who are not vaccinated will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test at least once a week to work on-site at all public workplaces around the state.

"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," Gov. Tim 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."

The state of Minnesota joins a growing list of private-sector employers and a bipartisan group of governors in requiring vaccinations for in-person work. Some of these employers include health care providers such as Mayo Clinic, Allina Health, Fairview Health Services and Sanford Health. Nearly a dozen colleges and universities around the state are requiring their employees and students to receive the vaccine before returning to campus.

The Biden administration has instituted a vaccination and testing protocol for four million federal workers and on-site contractors, and mandated vaccinations for Defense Department service members and Veterans Affairs healthcare personnel. In addition, major national companies like Tyson Foods, Microsoft, United Airlines and Disney will require employees to submit proof of vaccination before returning to work.

According to polling from American Express, half of America’s small businesses are certain or likely to require their on-site employees to be fully vaccinated.

"Vaccination is the best tool we have available to minimize the impacts of COVID-19 and protect our workers, our organizations and our communities," Minnesota 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 a steady increase in COVID-19 cases. New cases are up 574% per week from a month ago, nearly entirely driven by the highly contagious delta variant. The variant makes up 90% of cases sequenced in the state, according to MDH data.

The health department also notes that the overwhelming majority of these cases are among unvaccinated Minnesotans. Less than 0.2% of fully vaccinated residents have tested positive for COVID-19.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) issued the following statement following the announcement:

"The mandate issued by Gov. Walz requiring a vaccine or weekly testing on state employees does not apply to the Minnesota Senate. 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.

"I repeat what I said yesterday: Vaccines are widely available for those who want them and are incredibly effective at preventing the spread and impact of COVID. A vaccination mandate is divisive and unproductive."

The Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE) issued a statement as well on the matter. They also have questions to ask in their statement as well. To see their full statement, click here.