Local leaders speak out after Gov. Inslee’s vaccine mandate
Gov. Jay Inslee announced a requirement for most state workers Monday to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment. State employees and workers in private health care and long-term care settings have until Oct. 18 to be fully vaccinated.
The governor was joined by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine, both of whom made similar mandates for their city and county.
After the announcement, there were of course concerns raised, and plenty of reactions from both sides.
The president of the King County Corrections Guild told KIRO Radio that he is worried about what a vaccine mandate could do to jail employee staffing.
“We’re already at critical staffing with our vacancies right now. And if you lay off officers because they refuse to get vaccinated, what’s that going to do to our staffing? We already have officers working mandatory overtime, sleeping in jail cells because they want to get a few hours sleep,” Dennis Folk said.
Folk estimates that at least a couple hundred of their members are not vaccinated. He says with the training that’s required, replacing those employees would take several months.
House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox and Senate Republican Leader John Braun say the governor did not discuss the vaccine order with lawmakers. In a joint statement, they said they learned about it from the media, adding that threatening to terminate someone’s job if they don’t comply with this mandate is “heavy-handed and wrong.”
The two lawmakers believe in the vaccine, and are vaccinated themselves, but think getting vaccinated should be a personal choice and not a government order.
Read Wilcox and Braun’s statement below:
“Vaccinations can save lives and we have strongly encouraged people to get them. We have been vaccinated ourselves. But getting the vaccine is a personal health-care choice and should not be mandated by any level of government. Threatening to terminate someone’s job if they don’t comply with this requirement is heavy-handed and wrong. The governor should show humility, listen to those who have concerns about the vaccine, and look to provide other options – including incentives.
Similar to past announcements, we learned of the governor’s decision from the media. Those impacted by his decision, and their state lawmakers, have again been prevented from having a role in this process. This is yet another example of why we need emergency powers reform. Other states have enacted limits on their executive branches, but Democrats in our state have been afraid to challenge Governor Inslee. Call a special session. Give the people a meaningful say in these decisions.”
On the other side, state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler announced he will follow the governor’s lead and require all 243 employees at his agency to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18.
Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig and House Speaker Laurie Jinkins called the governor’s announcement “an important step in stopping the spread of the virus and its variants.”
Read their joint statement:
“Protecting the health and safety of people and communities in our state was a top priority of the legislature’s work this session, and the governor’s announcement today is an important step in stopping the spread of the virus and its variants. Vaccines are the best defense we have against COVID-19, and that’s why the Legislature put $1.2 billion into making sure people have access to vaccines, as well as contact tracing and testing efforts. State employees and health care providers serve the public. Being vaccinated with a safe, effective vaccine is a simple extension of that commitment. We applaud the governor’s actions to keep Washingtonians safe. As legislative leaders, we strongly encourage our members and staff to get vaccinated, and will be considering possible additional COVID safety steps within the legislative branch as we approach the next legislative session.”
The Washington State Medical Association President Nathan Schlicher also spoke out in support of the governor’s announcement Monday, calling it a “strong and necessary step.” Schlicher has previously said the WSMA would support a requirement for all health care workers to be vaccinated.
Read his statement below:
“Today, the governor took a strong and necessary step toward protecting the health and well-being of Washington patients and reducing the spread and severity of this terrible disease by ensuring health care workers are vaccinated. As we announced recently, the Washington State Medical Association supports mandating that Washington’s health care workers receive the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible, in line with the governor’s announcement. The WSMA applauds the governor for his courage by putting such a mandate in place statewide.
“Mandating vaccines during a time of disease outbreak is a proven strategy to eliminate and even eradicate deadly viruses. Time and time again history confirms this, with mandated vaccines helping to make such diseases as polio, measles, and mumps largely things of the past for Americans. It’s time we add COVID-19 to that list.
“Too many lives have been lost or forever altered from the COVID-19 virus. Washingtonians have done a tremendous job at rolling up their sleeves, but more must be done and must be done now. If you have yet to get the COVID-19 vaccine, don’t wait—please vaccinate now. Do it for your safety and the safety of your family and your community. If you have questions about the vaccine, visit wsma.org/covid-19 or talk with your doctor.”