Walz calls for vaccine and testing requirements for teachers

The governor kneels down to talk to a few students outside.
Gov. Tim Walz talks about COVID-19 with elementary school students in Hopkins in May. Walz called on lawmakers Tuesday to approve a series of new measures to respond to the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, including vaccine and testing requirements for teachers and school staff, and for long-term care workers.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News file

Updated: 5:10 p.m.

Gov. Tim Walz called on lawmakers Tuesday to approve a series of new measures to respond to the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, including vaccine and testing requirements for teachers and school staff, and for long-term care workers.

The Democratic governor detailed his proposal in a letter to lawmakers that he released after meeting privately with legislative leaders. He urged lawmakers to approve the measures during a special session that was originally envisioned for last month to approve a $250 million bonus package for frontline workers who risked their lives in the pandemic.

Negotiations on that plan have yet to produce an agreement and missed a Labor Day target. Since then, the governor has proposed that the special session also include drought relief for farmers. But Walz has also insisted that Senate Republicans agree not to use the special session to fire his health commissioner, Jan Malcolm, as some senators have threatened.

Walz urged lawmakers to reinstate a series of waivers and enact other relief to allow hospitals, nursing homes and childcare centers to respond more effectively to the surge in cases caused by the delta variant of the coronavirus. He noted that more Minnesotans are hospitalized for COVID-19 than last spring, and that at the end of last week only two pediatric intensive care beds were available across the entire state.

Senate Republican leader Jeremy Miller of Winona said he believes a deal on frontline worker pay can be reached soon.

“The growing list of requests from Governor Walz is not productive towards ensuring these dedicated workers receive their bonus pay in a timely manner,” Miller said. “They took the biggest risk and kept us safe during the pandemic, and they deserve meaningful bonus checks.”

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