by Leah Willingham, Associated Press
Most employees at Mississippi’s eight public universities will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 after a vote from the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning board of trustees Monday.
The action came on the same day the health department reported that Mississippi surpassed 10,000 coronavirus-related deaths.
The board scheduled a special meeting to discuss a Sept. 9 executive order from President Joe Biden that requires employees who do work connected to federal contracts be vaccinated unless they qualify for a medical, disability or religious exemption. The order states contractors must be vaccinated by Dec. 8.
Mississippi universities have approximately 120 federal contracts totaling at least $271 million.
According to guidance from the federal government, even employees who do not work under federal contract must be vaccinated if they work in the same building or on the same campus as someone who does.
The board voted 9-3 to comply with Biden’s mandate. It was not immediately clear how many employees would be affected by the vote.
The vote is a reversal from a previous decision in September by the board to prohibit public universities from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations unless students or employees work in a clinical setting, like at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
The Mississippi State Department of Health reported Monday that 10,024 people have died of COVID-19 or its complications in the state, which has a population of around 3 million.
The state reported its first coronavirus-related death — a man between the ages of 60 and 65 in Hancock County — on March 19, 2020.
Around 70% of the people who have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic were at least 65 years old, according to department of health data. Around 39% were Black and around 57% were white.
Close to 25% of all people who died had hypertension.
Nine of those dead from the virus were children and 15 were pregnant women.