ST PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota state employees working in person will need to prove they've been vaccinated against COVID-19 -- or get tested weekly for the virus, Gov. Tim Walz said Wednesday.
State agency employees who work in person will need to prove and attest to their vaccination statuses by Sept. 8. According to a release from Walz's office, unvaccinated employees will need to test negative for the virus "at least once a week" to keep working on-site.
Walz said vaccination keeps employees and the public safe, while also protecting the state's economic recovery.
"The state is leading by example and working to get our public employees vaccinated to protect themselves, their coworkers, and their communities," Walz wrote in the release. "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 is not the only state requiring the vaccinations for its state employees; California, Washington, and New York have announced similar decisions. In July, President Joe Biden announced a set of vaccination rules for federal employees.
Outside of state employees, the University of Minnesota recently announced that the COVID-19 vaccine will be required for students, pending full FDA approval. Large local health care providers like M Health Fairview, Allina Health and HealthPartners have announced COVID-19 vaccine mandates for employees.
Walz hinted at the discussion Tuesday, telling reporters such a mandate was possible as his administration works on bringing state employees back to in-person work.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka fired back, saying mandates are "not the solution."
"There are other options, such as working from home and distancing for those who choose to not be vaccinated," Gazelka wrote in a Tuesday press statement. "Vaccines are widely available for those who want them and are incredibly effective at preventing the spread and impact of COVID. But a mandate is divisive and unproductive."
After Walz's Wednesday announcement, Gazelka reiterated his opposition to the mandate. He said it would 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," he wrote in a press release. "I believe this approach protects safety and freedom together. Our priority continues to be finding this important balance."
More information for employees is available on the state's website. The website shows that unvaccinated teleworkers are exempt from the testing requirement, but they can only access their workplaces for 10 minutes at a time.