Wednesday afternoon, Essentia Health announced they were requiring COVID-19 vaccinations as a condition of employment for all their employees as well as volunteers, students and more. Hours later, St. Luke's in Duluth announced they were doing the same thing, with a slight difference.

According to a press release posted the evening of Wednesday, August 4, COVID-19 vaccines will be required for all St. Luke’s employees, vendors, volunteers and board members. What's different about this requirement versus that of Essentia Health is how soon St. Luke's is requiring everyone to get vaccinated.

They state that their staff will be required to receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, or file a religious or medical exemption by Wednesday, September 1 and have completed the vaccine series by Friday, October 1. Essentia Health is giving their staff until October 1 to get their first dose of vaccine.

St. Luke's added that those who are currently unvaccinated and those who do ultimately qualify for exemptions will be required to take COVID-19 tests regularly.

“We understand people have strong beliefs about this,” Dr. Nick Van Deelen, St. Luke’s Co-President/CEO and CMO said. “Ultimately, the policy is about keeping our patients and staff safe and reducing the community transmission of a serious disease.”

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According to St. Luke's officials, it is the unvaccinated who face the greater risk of disease, hospitalization and death when compared to those who have been vaccinated. They add that currently 78% of St. Luke’s employees and 97% of St. Luke’s physicians have received their COVID-19 vaccine.

It's certainly been a busy week with COVID-19 news in the Northland, spurred by an increase in positive cases in the area that are largely due to the Delta variant. The Delta variant doesn't just hit the elderly and those with underlying conditions, but it is causing severe illness in younger adults who were spared the worst of COVID-19 initially.

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