Hennepin County will now require its nearly 9,000 employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The County Board unanimously approved the measure Tuesday, which was necessary to receive specific medical federal funding. The vote came after all but one of Minnesota's 87 counties have been determined to be in the highest transmission category for the virus by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In August, the county required employees, interns and volunteers to be either vaccinated or tested on a regular basis. As of last week, 85% of county employees had been vaccinated. Employees can opt out if there is a need for religious or medical accommodation.
County employees who are subject to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services federal mandate are required to follow the federal deadlines, including a first dose by December 6th. The board approved a vaccine requirement for all other staff who are not subject to the federal mandate. That requirement will not go into effect before Feb. 4, 2022. The specific timeline has not yet been determined.
Although Commissioner Jeff Lunde voted for the mandate, he was the only board member who raised concerns over it.
"The efficiency of the vaccine degrades over time," he said. "And we need to talk about boosters. We need to inform people. I'm not happy about all aspects of this requirement."
Last month, St. Paul required nearly every city employee to have their shots completed by the end of the year. Ramsey County also requires vaccination, but employees can opt out if they have weekly testing.
Minneapolis employees have the option to get vaccinated or be subject to regular testing. Health Commissioner Gretchen Musicant said in a committee meeting Monday that the program said about 72% of city employees have been vaccinated, and they're working with Hennepin Healthcare to get testing kits for employees who aren't vaccinated to take tests at their job sites.
More than 9,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Minnesota.
Correction: A previous version of this article included incorrect deadlines for vaccinations for some county employees.
Staff writer Liz Navratil contributed to this story.
David Chanen • 612-673-4465