Ramsey County leaders are moving forward with a plan to require its more than 4,000 full- and part-time employees to either provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccine or submit to weekly testing.

They are poised to become one of the first government entities in Minnesota to do so. Commissioners expressed support for the plan when the County Board discussed the draft policy at its Tuesday meeting and could vote as soon as next week.

"We cannot fight this pandemic in the dark. We are needing to bring better light into the room using the tools available to us," said Ramsey County Manager Ryan O'Connor.

O'Connor said the county's human resources, public health and legal teams are helping shape the policy. Details including how testing will be managed, if it's considered work time and consequences for violating the policy are still being hashed out.

The county plans to offer a monetary incentive for employees who provide proof of vaccination, but it didn't specify how much.

"I think you are on the right track. I think it's a good proposal. I think it's fair," said Commissioner Trista MatasCastillo. "People still have a choice. People can get vaccinated or tested."

The county is also still determining how the policy would be applied to contract workers and volunteers.

About 1,000 county staff are now working in the office or field, with the rest working remotely, O'Connor said.

Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt expressed her support for the policy and compared it to other government regulations designed to protect the public.

"We have speed limits," Reinhardt said. "There are all kinds of mandates meant to protect other people. That's what this is. This isn't about personal freedom. This is about keeping people alive."

Shannon Prather • 651-925-5037