Updated: June 14, 2021 03:39 PM
Created: June 14, 2021 03:34 PM
The University of Minnesota system's president said Monday that the university won't require students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to the start of the fall semester.
In a systemwide message, Joan Gabel, the university's president, noted that vaccines are now widely available and the university is still urging students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated. However, she called it "a complex and personal issue" and said the university will allow everyone to make their own decisions on being vaccinated.
Gabel also noted that over 65% of Minnesotans ages 16 and older have already received at least one vaccine dose, while campus communities are also doing well in terms of vaccination rates: Hennepin and Ramsey counties are above 74%, Olmsted County is over 79%, St. Louis County topped 65% and both Polk and Stevens counties are at 54%.
A Twin Cities campus survey conducted last month also showed 96% of respondents had received at least one vaccine dose or planned to get vaccinated, while 84% already were fully vaccinated, Gabel said.
"This is a great start that I hope is embraced across all our campus communities, and is also an important factor in assessing our safety and the safety of those we care for," Gabel said.
For those who aren't vaccinated, the university is touting its "Get the Vax" plan, which encourages vaccination and helps connect students to local vaccination opportunities. Gabel said the university's wellbeing program will also offer a significant portion of points during next year's program for employees and spouses being vaccinated.
Still, the university is asking students, faculty and staff to take precautions that they've been highlighting throughout the pandemic, such as staying home when feeling sick, washing hands frequently, getting tested if necessary, and continuing to wear a mask if desired. Gabel noted that everyone has a different comfort level and masks are still permissible to anyone who feels it's necessary, regardless of vaccination status. She added that the university won't ask about or make anyone's vaccination status public.
"Our choices make all of the difference in preventing the spread of COVID-19, for ourselves and also for our friends, colleagues, and our entire community. Thank you for all you have done to keep each other healthy, safe, and well, and I look forward, as I know all the Chancellors do, to seeing you around campus soon," Gabel said.
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