Supreme Court ruling scrambles vaccine mandate plans in Minneapolis, St. Paul

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that blocks the Biden administration from enforcing vaccine-or-test mandates against employees at large companies will have wide-ranging effects in Minnesota.

The 6-3 ruling partially disrupts plans in Minneapolis and St. Paul for vaccine requirements at hospitality venues, which both cities' mayors have ordered to kick in next Wednesday. While customers must be vaccinated or show a negative test to dine at bars or restaurants and attend entertainment venues, employees at those businesses will not be subject to the mandate.

Late Thursday, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter signed an updated order striking his 24-hour-old requirement for hospitality employees while keeping the mandate on customers. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey did the same on Friday. It sets up an imbalance where diners must be vaccinated or tested, but their server won't be.

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The court ruling came as a relief to some business operators who are feared losing more employees to vaccination mandates amid a worker shortage. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce cheered the decision.

"We continue to believe that employers know best how to manage their workplaces, and keep employees and customers safe," Doug Loon, the Minnesota Chamber's chief executive, said in an email.

But Gov. Tim Walz said he was disappointed by the ruling.

"I think they made the wrong decision, but that’s not for me to decide," the Democratic governor told reporters at an event promoting vaccinations and testing.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court allowed a vaccination mandate for millions of health care workers to stand. All health care workers who work for providers that get Medicare or Medicaid funding face the requirement.

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Several major Minnesota health systems have said their vaccination compliance is around 99 percent, though they have fired some workers who refused to get their shots.

Hundreds of thousands of Minnesota health care workers at hospitals and long-term care facilities fall under the requirement that the Supreme Court allowed to stand. But group homes do not.

But Tracy Murphy, president of Mt. Olivet Rolling Acres, which runs 32 Minnesota group homes, said her Medicaid-funded facilities were still governed by a vaccine mandate, which she fears will deepen the worker shortage. Her company has 80 of its 500 positions open and another 80 people are refusing to get the COVID vaccine, she said at a Senate Human Services committee hearing Thursday.

"We are no longer in crisis. We are in an emergency," she told lawmakers.