By WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota’s state agency employees will need to get vaccinated for COVID-19 or participate in regular testing before returning to the workplace.

Gov. Tim Walz announced the new vaccination requirements for state agency employees Wednesday afternoon, saying it’s being done to protect workers and families from the virus.

“Vaccination is the best way to keep employees and the people we serve safe and ensure the Delta variant does not derail our economic recovery,” Walz said. “The state is leading by example and working to get our public employees vaccinated to protect themselves, their coworkers, and their communities. 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.”

By Wednesday, Sept. 8, state agency employees who will be working in person will be required to show proof of vaccination and attest to their vaccination status.

Employees who are not vaccinated will need to have a negative COVID-19 test at least once a week to continue working at public workplaces in the state.

“With the Delta variant rising across the state, Minnesotans deserve to feel confident in their safety and security in the workplace,” Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said. “Getting vaccinated is the best way to keep our workers safe, and I encourage all state agency employees to get their shot as soon as possible. It’s how we take care of each other as Minnesotans.”

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R- East Gull Lake) issued a statement in response to the vaccination requirement.

“The mandate issued by Gov. Walz requiring a vaccine or weekly testing on state employees does 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. I believe this approach protects safety and freedom together. Our priority continues to be finding this important balance.

“I repeat what I said yesterday: 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.”

Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, a union representing nearly 15,000 individuals in state government, also responded to Walz’s announcement Wednesday, saying it feels the policy can be improved and will work with the state to do so.

“[We] will work to ensure that members who cannot, or choose not to, be vaccinated are able to continue working with mitigations that protect everyone’s safety through masking and testing,” the group said in a statement. “We have many questions that need to be answered before the policy goes into effect on Sept. 8,” the group added.

The governor’s announcement comes amid a growing list of employers requiring vaccination, including major health employers like Mayo Clinic, Allina Health and M Health Fairview.