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St. Paul city workers have until the end of the year to get vaccinated for COVID-19, Mayor Melvin Carter announced Thursday.

The mayor said that the city's implementing a vaccine mandate for city employees, noting that workers have until Dec. 31 to get their shots, except in the few cases where certain qualifying accommodations or religious exemptions may apply.

But unlike the City of Minneapolis, which announced its own mandate last month, St. Paul will not be allowing employees to "opt out" of getting vaccinated and agreeing instead to regular testing.

In a video, Mayor Carter explained why: "Since testing only provides a way to determine if someone has COVID after they've already contracted it, it offers no protection for an unvaccinated individual, nor for any individuals they interact with. 

"Because we have a responsibility to do everything they can to protect our entire workforce, and the members of our community we engage with every day, our vaccine requirement will not include an opt out for testing."

Workers will be required to have completed the vaccination series by Dec. 31, and will have to prove and attest to their vaccination status by Jan. 14.

Those who fail to provide proof that they've been vaccinated won't be permitted to work and may be subject to discipline.

More details on the protocol is expected to be released on Friday.

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Those who may be exempt from the vaccine include those with certain disabilities or medical conditions, or who believe they need accommodation due to recent treatment for COVID-19. Religious exemptions will also be considered.

The move is likely to see some pushback from union leaders, with a memo from AFSCME Local 2508 forwarded to Bring Me The News saying that AFSCME Council 5 had sent a letter to Mayor Carter Thursday morning expressing disappointment that the mayor did "not have a direct conversation with us" and that they "disagree with his actions."

They are asking the mayor for a sit down conversation, with the memo also noting that strike action may be considered.

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