University of Minnesota shifts, will require COVID shots

Published 5:33 pm Monday, August 9, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS — The University of Minnesota shifted gears on coronavirus vaccinations on Monday, saying it would begin requiring the shots after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approves vaccines.

University President Joan Gabel announced the mandate in a letter to students and employees on Monday, joining hundreds of colleges across the country in requiring vaccinations. The university’s Board of Regents will need to approve the measure, which would join the mask mandate for all indoor spaces already in place across the university system’s five campuses statewide.

The move comes as the delta variant is spreading nationwide. In Minnesota, state officials on Monday reported more than 1,000 new infections, and a testing positivity rate of 4.5%. Almost 300 people were hospitalized, more than triple the number of just three weeks ago.

The Star Tribune reported that the Minnesota State Fair was considering requiring masks at indoor attractions when the 12-day fair starts Aug. 26. General manager Jerry Hammer said it was unlikely the fair would require proof of shots or a recent negative COVID-19 test for entry.

Once the FDA approves vaccines, the University of Minnesota will require faculty and staff to either be vaccinated or submit to regular COVID-19 testing. Gabel cited the more contagious delta variant for the change from the university’s previous decision to recommend, but not require, vaccinations for students.

“We understand that this is a challenging decision for our community, but our interests are first and foremost the health of our students, faculty and staff,” Gabel said in her letter.

The FDA has issued emergency-use approval of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines but full approval for the Pfizer vaccine is expected in the coming weeks.

Many colleges and universities nationwide are requiring vaccinations and issuing mask mandates as new infections escalate due to the delta variant. More than 3 million Minnesotans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and nearly 70% have received on dose as of Thursday, though vaccination rates statewide have slowed in recent months.