FILE - University of Missouri

In this Oct. 10, 2019, photo Mizzou's historic columns, with Jesse Hall in the background, can be seen on the campus of the University of Missouri in Columbia.

(The Center Square) – As Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s lawsuit to stop federal vaccine mandates progresses through the courts, the University of Missouri announced it would comply with the order and three Missouri circuit courts are taking similar steps.

The University of Missouri System’s Board Curators approved a resolution declaring it would comply with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors. All UM employees, “including faculty, staff and student employees must comply with the requirements of the federal vaccine mandate with the exceptions of those who object because of a religious belief or have a verified medical reason,” according to a media release. It also stated administrators could determine “that an employee is not covered by the mandate due to the nature of their work, their work location and their lack of interactions with covered employees connected to federal contracts.”

In addition to reviewing President Joe Biden’s executive order mandating vaccinations, the Curators said they reviewed Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s subsequent executive order on religious and medical exceptions.

“We understand the significant financial challenges that would be created if we do not comply with this federal mandate,” Darryl Chatman, chair of the Curators, said in a statement. “The board has encouraged our campus communities to get vaccinated pursuant to the federal vaccine mandate, and we will continue to do everything we can to keep our communities safe while also respecting individual freedoms.”

Presiding Judge Michael F. Stelzer is requiring all employees of the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court in St. Louis to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022, or submit to weekly testing, according to a news release.

“The Court takes very seriously its duty to provide and maintain a work environment that protects and prioritizes the health and safety of not only our staff and their families, but also the general public whom we serve,” the judge said in a statement. “This order provides us with evidence-based, established guidelines and procedures to strengthen that commitment. It also brings us in line with a growing number of public and private entities working together to boost vaccination rates and put this pandemic behind us.”

Stelzer’s executive order was drafted in consultation with the City of St. Louis Department of Health and is similar to directives in the 21st Judicial Circuit in St. Louis County and the 16th Judicial Circuit in Jackson County, according to the release. Stelzer’s order affects 650 full-time, part-time, per performance and temporary employees.

All court employees will be required to submit proof of vaccination status by Dec. 10. Employees not fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022, will be subject to weekly testing until the employee is fully vaccinated. Employees with a disability or a religious exemption that prevents vaccination must get tested weekly. Employees providing false information or statements regarding their vaccination status, test results or in other ways not compliant with the executive order may face disciplinary action including termination.

The university system’s deadline for completing the vaccination process is Jan. 4, 2022.

“The university will be responsive to individuals who have exemption requests,” Mun Choi, president of the UM system, said in a statement. “As Governor Parson’s order has stated, we will not require any individual to receive the vaccine if they have a sincerely held religious belief or verified medical reason. We are developing a structure that will allow us to evaluate exemptions as quickly as possible to process those requests.”

University employees on all four campuses will receive information in the coming weeks with details on policies, processes and information. University officials pledged to continue monitoring the situation and to make policy adjustments as needed.

Staff Reporter

Joe Mueller covers Missouri for The Center Square. After seven years of reporting for daily newspapers in Illinois and Missouri, he spent the next 30 years in public relations serving non-profit organizations and as a strategic communications consultant.