The Minnesota Department of Corrections has been more successful in immunizing prisoners against the coronavirus than its own employees, vaccination rates show.
As of this week, about 80% of inmates in Minnesota have been fully vaccinated, while the vaccination rate for corrections staff is just over 65% and lower in some prisons.
Less than 60 percent of employees in Moose Lake and St. Cloud have received the shot. In Rush City, it is less than half that, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.
State Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell said he is “deeply concerned” about the department’s vaccination rates.
“We know that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people can bring the virus into the population,” he said. “But we know that when people are vaccinated this risk is greatly reduced.”
A new mandate went into effect this month, requiring all Minnesota state employees working in the office or on-site to either be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing for COVID-19. Schnell said his department is testing about 1,400 unaffiliated staff members on a weekly basis.
Schnell said the number of positive cases is affecting the level of staff needed to operate prisons.
“If you have a shift (where) 75 percent or 80 percent of that shift is illiterate, then what’s happening is close contact and someone brings it up, and they’re positive,” he said. “What’s happening now is that we have the vast majority of a particular shift unable to work.”