A day after announcing 70 percent of state workers in the executive branch reported they were vaccinated against COVID-19, the Evers administration said it will require those who didn't get a shot to be tested weekly.
The policy announced Tuesday requires all executive branch employees, interns, and contractors not vaccinated against COVID-19 to be tested for the virus starting Oct. 18. The state Department of Administration said it will apply to all employees who have either not submitted their vaccination status or those who aren't fully vaccinated.
"As part of our efforts to manage the state workforce, we’re looking to every tool at our disposal to address the Delta variant, including testing, wearing masks, and vaccination," said DOA Secretary Joel Brennan in a statement. "State employees are critical partners in helping us protect the people of Wisconsin, and we look forward to the day when we can all put COVID-19 in the rear-view mirror."
Republican opposition to what it called a "sweeping" mandate was swift.
"The disturbing trend in recent years of top-down rule by the executive branch has been stretched to the breaking point during the pandemic. If Governor Evers is allowed to execute new, nondelegated powers over state employees, he will surely extend further mandates onto all People of Wisconsin, as he has done before," said Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, in a statement.
DOA and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services will provide information about free testing locations individuals can use during their working hours, according to guidance sent to employees and affected state agencies.
In addition to the state-provided free testing options, employees, interns and contract staff will also have the option of obtaining a weekly test on their own time via their health care provider, pharmacy, local public health office, or community-based testing location. Employees, interns and contract staff who opt to use a non-state-provided testing provider will be responsible for any costs associated with the test, according to DOA.
Approximately 10,000 employees have either not submitted their vaccination status or have indicated they haven't yet been vaccinated. DOA officials expect that the number affected by the testing requirement will shift significantly as the deadline approaches, with the testing requirement providing incentive for reporting, according to a department spokesperson.
Last month, Gov. Tony Evers directed state employees to wear face masks indoors regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated against the coronavirus.