Minnesota will require state workers to be COVID-vaccinated or tested weekly starting Sept. 8

Starting Sept. 8, all Minnesota state employees who work outside their home must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or agree to be tested at least weekly.

Minnesota has 35,700 executive branch workers and 15,000 employees at the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, though the mandate will not cover those who work from home. Currently, 57 percent of Minnesota's executive branch employees must be in the office.

Employees who telework and aren't vaccinated or agree to weekly testing will only be allowed to enter the workplace for 10 minutes at a time.

In a statement providing rationale for the move, Gov. Tim Walz compared the state's new requirements to those implemented by President Joe Biden for the federal government. The governor noted that several health systems in the state are requiring their employees to be vaccinated by this fall.

"The state is leading by example and working to get our public employees vaccinated to protect themselves, their coworkers, and their communities," Walz said. "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 Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, which represents 15,000 state workers, raised questions about the new vaccine and testing requirement.

Union officials said they were just clued in Wednesday morning, hours before the policy was announced publicly. Among the union's concerns: how employees will provide proof of vaccination, whether the state will pay for weekly testing, and how testing locations will differ for Twin Cities Metro and outstate employees.

"Now that we are involved, we will advocate for those improvements and look forward to working with the administration to ensure these improvements are made," MAPE President Megan Dayton said. 

It's unclear where state workers must go to be tested. An FAQ webpage says "we are still working out the logistics for testing with each agency."

Minnesota State will implement a proof of vaccination requirement for its 15,000 employees following Walz's announcement, Chancellor Devinder Malhotra said in an email. The requirement does not extend to students.

A spokesman for the University of Minnesota said the system isn't directly affected by the state mandate, but the U of M is requiring its 26,000-person workforce to be vaccinated or face testing at a frequency yet to be determined.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, a potential opponent of Walz in the 2022 governor's race, said the Senate will not impose a vaccination or testing requirement on its own employees.

"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," Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said in an email.

This story is developing and will be updated.