Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz urged the legislature to pass a vaccine and testing requirement for certain professions in a Tuesday, Oct. 5 letter to legislative leaders.
Walz listed off a number of other topics including frontline worker pay, drought relief and pandemic response as his legislative priorities before closing out the letter with a push to instate a vaccine and mask requirement for teachers, school staff and long-term care workers.
“Minnesota can and should lead by expeditiously implementing these components of President Biden’s announcement regarding vaccine requirements,” Walz wrote in the letter.
In September, President Joe Biden announced that federal workers and contractors would be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19, eliminating the previous possibility of frequent testing in the event of vaccine refusal. Biden also announced that hospitals and other health care entities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding will have to be vaccinated.
Walz has no legal authority to pass a vaccine mandate himself. According to a section of state law, Minnesota 12.39, during a peacetime state of emergency, “individuals have a fundamental right to refuse medical treatment, testing, physical or mental examination, vaccination, participation in experimental procedures and protocols, collection of specimens, and preventative treatment programs.”
Minnesota has fully vaccinated 3.25 million eligible residents, as of a Wednesday, Oct. 6 Minnesota Department of Health update. The number accounts for 69.1 percent of the population of the state.
In Wilkin County, Minnesota, 2,905 eligible people have been fully vaccinated, accounting for 54 percent of the population of the county.
The county has struggled the most to vaccinate the 16-17 age group, which only has 29 percent fully vaccinated. Similarly, the 12-15 and 18-49 age groups show lower rates of vaccination — 30 percent and 39 percent, respectively — than the county’s older population.
Meanwhile, the state grapples with rising cases, reaching 3,661 newly reported cases Friday, Oct. 8. Twenty new deaths were reported in the state.
Wilkin County is slowly creeping up, nearly at a total of 1,000 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. Friday, the county reported eight new cases.