Gov. Inslee announces COVID vaccine requirement for state employees, long-term care facility workers

Jay Inslee
Ted S. Warren

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks Wednesday, May 12, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., before signing a bill into law that prohibits openly carrying guns and other weapons at the state Capitol and protests statewide.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — State workers and people working in both private health care and long-term care facilities will be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Governor Jay Inslee announced the new vaccine requirement on Monday, saying that employees have until October 18 to receive their final dose. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine announced they have the same expectation for employees, and if they refuse, they will no longer be employed with the state or private business.

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Many other state and local agencies that issued similar requirements have allowed employees to get regular COVID tests in lieu of getting vaccinated, but that will not be the case in Washington state. 

Inslee said this has not worked in congregate care settings, like Department of Corrections facilities, and has not reduced the spread of COVID. That said, there will be a religious exemption possible. 

Inslee’s requirement only applies to governor cabinet agencies; it does not apply to higher education, K-12 schools, the legislative branch, judicial branch nor employees of separately elected officials. The governor has, however, encouraged leaders of these branches to take similar action. 

“We know the overwhelming majority, something like 95% of recent hospitalizations are from people who have not been vaccinated. Today this is a disease of those who have not been vaccinated,” Inslee said.

READ: Washington to reuire all K-12 students, school employees to wear masks this fall

Though there was wide speculation online, Inslee did not announce a mask mandate. The governor has encouraged people, including those who are fully vaccinated, to wear masks indoors in areas of high transmission, as well as in K-12 schools. 

However, a mask mandate could be an option if case rates continue to skyrocket. 

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