MN OSHA enacts COVID emergency standards, Beltrami County to opt for weekly tests for unvaccinated employees

Minnesota OSHA published the emergency temporary standards this past Monday, meaning employers within the state with more than 100 employees are on a tight deadline to implement the requirements to comply with state law.

Beltrami County Administrator Tom Barry recommended that the county, which has more than 400 employees, adopt the vaccine, testing and masking option rather than a widespread mandate for COVID-19 vaccines.

County employees who are not vaccinated will need to be tested weekly and will be required to wear a mask unless in an enclosed space by themselves at work. Vaccinated employees may choose to wear a mask.

Testing, according to Barry, would begin on Feb. 2, and employees will need to declare their vaccination status by Monday.

The board and Barry commiserated on the uncertainty and the high strain on administration these standards will cause, which as written will expire in six months but could be extended later, or the Supreme Court could toss the whole thing out.

The board agreed that the emergency phase of the pandemic was in the past, as said by Commissioner Reed Olson

The Supreme Court is scheduled to consider the previous court injunctions this Friday.

Barry anticipated the cost of purchasing the tests and hiring part-time help for administering the tests to administer these weekly tests to an anticipated 175 county employees who are unvaccinated will cost around $115,000, but that number could be far greater depending on how much the tests will cost.

The funding will come from COVID relief dollars the county has already received from the American Rescue Plan.


Larissa Donovan is the News Director for the stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting and has been, almost without interruption, since Election Day 2016. She covers all the beats in north-central Minnesota, such as local government, crime, education, environment and social issues. She studied communications at Bemidji State University. You can follow along with Larissa's live tweets of meetings and events on Twitter!


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