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Inslee: Nine out of 10 state workers complied with vaccine mandate

Staff Writer | October 15, 2021 1:03 AM

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee said thanks to the more than 91% vaccination and exemption rate among state employees, essential state services should be relatively unaffected as the vaccination deadline passes on Monday.

“There is not going to be a mass exodus of state employees and we will be able to continue essential services,” Inslee said during a press conference Thursday afternoon.

The governor thanked those state workers who did get vaccinated against COVID-19 and said he believed the rate will continue to rise even after the deadline, as state workers report their vaccination status.

He also said he is not extending the Monday deadline.

For those workers who chose not to comply with his vaccination requirement, issued on Aug. 9, Inslee said he appreciated their service and wished well those who chose to walk away. He also said most state workers who would lose their jobs by refusing to comply with his mandate would likely not be eligible for unemployment compensation.

Inslee also said there might be “some operational changes to some agencies” as a result of job losses, but as a whole, government operations should be unaffected given that more than nine out of 10 state employees have complied with the proclamation.

“We want to serve the public, not infect the public,” Inslee said. “We will find replacements.”

The vaccination mandate also covers teachers and health care workers, who face the same deadline. Both Inslee and Washington state Secretary of Health Umair Shah said the vaccination rates for teachers and health care workers are up, but did not say by how much.

Also Thursday, Inslee announced new vaccine verification rules for large indoor and outdoor events. Beginning on Nov. 15, anyone 12 or older who wants to attend an indoor event with 1,000 or more people or outdoor events with 10,000 or more attendees will have to show proof of vaccination — a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccination card, or a photo of that card, or a QR code from app maker — or a negative COVID-19 test done within the prior 72 hours.

The rules, which Inslee called “another effective measure” to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, apply to events like sporting matches, games and concerts, but not school activities held on school grounds, religious services, shopping malls or museums.

“The things we have done have benefitted people and saved lives,” the governor said.

Inslee said state officials are still waiting for details on President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal workers and employees of large companies, issued on Sept. 9, but they are “actively considering” not allowing a test-out in Washington.

The governor cited the state’s Department of Corrections experience with a regime of masking and testing, noting it failed to prevent the spread of the disease among and between prisoners and guards.

“At the state level, we have not found that adequate,” Inslee said.

While the options for electronic vaccination verification — so-called vaccine passports — are limited, Shah said his department is “working with tech partners” to develop “tech savvy solutions.” However, right now, Shah said cards or photos of cards stored on a cellphone will do.