DULUTH – Duluth will require its city employees to get vaccinated or be tested weekly for COVID-19.

"From a public health standpoint, it's clear vaccination is the best route to ending the pandemic," said Noah Schuchman, the city's chief administrative officer. "From our perspective, the first priority is to protect city staff, the public and each other."

The city employs about 850 people, who were notified of the new policy two weeks ago. Employees have until Dec. 1 to be fully vaccinated, and for those who aren't, regular testing will be required. The city's employee vaccination rate is 81.5%, Schuchman said.

Most employees are covered by union contracts, and disciplinary paths outlined in those contracts will be followed for those who don't comply, Schuchman said.

Those measures begin with a warning and end with termination.

It's not yet clear whether cities must comply with the new federal mandate for companies with 100 or more employees to require them to be fully vaccinated or undergo weekly testing by Jan. 4. President Joe Biden announced his executive order in September and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration laid out the guidelines Thursday. Unlike some states, Minnesota has its own agency for worker safety and must adopt its own regulations, said Amber Eisenschenk, research manager with the League of Minnesota Cities.

Those apply to public as well as private employers in Minnesota, "so we anticipate that when Minnesota adopts its own emergency temporary standards in the next few weeks, it will also apply to public employers," she said.

Duluth follows Minneapolis and St. Paul with similar mandates.

Jana Hollingsworth • 218-508-2450