Vaccine mandate in place in Saskatchewan; policies vary widely in Midwest’s states

October 22, 2021

Saskatchewan is requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for all of the province’s government employees, including those at government-owned “crown corporations,” as well as for access to a variety of indoor public establishments and venues — from indoor restaurants and fitness centers, to museums, theaters, casinos and live-music venues.

Children under age 12 are exempt from the requirement, which took effect Oct. 1. The mandate does not include retail businesses (including grocery stores), places of worship, fast-food restaurants, health care services, professional services or hotels.

According to the National Academy for State Health Policy, most Midwestern states have chosen not to have vaccine requirements such as Saskatchewan’s. For example, few Midwestern states have similar requirements for state employees. However, there are some exceptions:

  • In Minnesota, starting in early September, state employees had to be vaccinated or submit to weekly tests.
  • At state-run Illinois veterans homes, prisons, juvenile detention centers and facilities for the mentally or developmentally disabled, a vaccine requirement for workers took effect in October. Exemptions can be sought for sincerely held religious beliefs. In these cases, additional testing can be required.
  • Executive branch employees in Wisconsin were required to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing as of Oct. 18.

In contrast, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed HB 1405 in April, banning state and local governments from implementing vaccine “passport” requirements. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in September signed the state’s budget (HB 4400/SB 82), which includes language barring any publicly funded department, agency, board, commission or individual from requiring proof of vaccine as a condition of employment. However, under the law, certain hospitals and congregate care facilities can require vaccines.

Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, North Dakota and South Dakota have adopted some kind of ban on the use of “vaccine passports” by state and local governments, the academy notes. For example, in Iowa (HF 889), government-issued identification cards cannot include vaccination status, and state funding will be withheld from any business requiring that customers show they have gotten the vaccine.