Minnesota universities begin requiring masks, vaccines

Nearly a dozen Minnesota private colleges are now requiring COVID-19 vaccinations.

Students on move-in day last year at the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University. (College of St. Benedict and St. John's University/Facebook)

On Wednesday, the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University joined a growing list of Minnesota private colleges requiring all students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before classes commence later this month.

“This decision is driven by our desire to provide a safe, on-campus experience for our students and employees this fall and gives us the best chance for in-person classes, athletic events, community living and all the benefits our community has to offer,” the schools said in a statement.

Leadership claimed the situation changed with the delta variant moving infection rates in “the wrong direction.”

Students at the schools — with their $60,000 tuition — must receive at least one shot by Aug. 26 before classes begin four days later.

Exemptions may be requested.

Earlier this week, the university’s long-time rival, the University of St. Thomas, mandated vaccines for students and faculty due to “the highly contagious delta variant spreading rapidly.”

Students don’t return until after Labor Day to the Twin Cities-based campus.

Nearly a dozen Minnesota private colleges are now requiring COVID-19 vaccinations, as are hundreds of public institutions nationwide, most notably Indiana University.

While Minnesota’s public universities are not yet requiring students and employees to be vaccinated against the virus, they are implementing mask mandates “consistent with guidance” from the CDC.

A few miles east of St. John’s in central Minnesota, St. Cloud State University announced Wednesday it will again require masks to be worn indoors on campus, regardless of vaccination status. According to the 16,000-student university, this policy is until further notice

The school will monitor county transmission rates, and after four consecutive days of a transmission rate, will change the protocol to either masks or no masks.

“As we mask up during times of high or substantial transmission in our area, we are protecting others around us, including those who are immunocompromised and those who are unvaccinated,” the university’s letter said, noting that there will be “no significant change in Fall 2021 operations,” including to capacities or social distancing.

School resumes Aug. 23 in St. Cloud.

The University of Minnesota began to require masks indoors Tuesday, regardless of vaccination status. The school previously said it would not require vaccinations for the upcoming school year, which begins Sept. 7.