LOCAL NEWS

Gov. Inslee: ‘No reason to abandon a career’ over COVID vaccine mandate

Aug 19, 2021, 5:03 AM | Updated: 10:46 am
bus, vaccine mandate...
(AP file photo)
(AP file photo)

Governor Jay Inslee announced a new vaccine mandate Wednesday for all K-12 public school teachers in Washington state. They must now be vaccinated — with limited exceptions for medical or religious reasons — or risk losing their job. The mandate also applies to private and charter school staff statewide.

Gov. Inslee mandates vaccines for all educators and staff

But what happens if a significant number of educators choose not to get vaccinated and lose their jobs? How would the state handle the ensuing staffing shortage?

“It is our hope and I think grounded belief that once people think about this, they’re going to choose to stay in these incredibly important careers. These are dedicated people,” Gov. Inslee said in a Wednesday press conference. “And there’s simply no reason to abandon a career when you have a safe, effective vaccine available to you, and we are confident the vast majority of people will make that decision.”

If there are a few who do not, Inslee says the administration will find a solution.

“But that should not happen,” he said. “We should talk to our teachers — we love them, we respect them, we need them. We should not allow them to make a decision that’s bad for their health and bad for our kids. I think if we pull together as a state, we’re going to find relatively minimal problems in that regard.”

By Oct. 5, Inslee says the state will know who has started their vaccination process and who has not. All state employees, via a previous mandate, and now all school staff must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18. If people do not come into compliance — and do not seek an exemption — they will be discharged via a formal process.

“This is a serious issue,” Inslee said. “This is not some suggestion or whimsical idea we are floating. It is a job requirement, and people will be held to account by loss of job if they can not come in compliance. But they can, and I believe people will.”

Washington’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal also said OSPI has already been doing regular, informal checks to see how many of their employees are vaccinated, but they have not been able ask employees to share their vaccination status. This mandate will change that, he says, and will require proof of vaccination or an approved exemption.

“This is not new to our school system. We have vaccine requirements for our students and there’s a process for that,” he said. “Local districts are the employers of these individuals. They know how to do this, they will do the verification and they’ll do the checking and confirmations.”

Reykdal estimates that certificated staff are well in excess of 70% vaccinated statewide, with some regions reporting that it’s quite a bit higher than that. There’s consistent feedback that it’s slightly less than that for some other employee groups, he added.

“Our goal is to get them all vaccinated,” he said.

“We are not talking about 140,000 folks who still need it, but probably 40,000-50,000 of all of our employees and folks who are contracted with us who will need to pursue this at this point in time,” he added.

He also clarified that the mandate will apply to substitutes, and said they will be treated like any other employee with that expectation.

Superintendent says protocols make Washington classrooms some of the ‘safest in the country’

In response to a possible staffing shortage, Reykdal said those issues are unfortunately not new.

“We always have some shortages in certain areas, different elements of the teaching workforce. We consistently have bus driver challenges, especially when the economy is really good and they have lots of options,” he said. “So districts are working through that plan. They’re thinking through that every day, they know where they can go get talent. But there are some times that are tough — you’ve seen administrators cover classrooms at times — and they will work very, very hard to replace and fill folks if we get to that point.”

“We don’t have to though,” he added. “Folks can vaccinate. Some small group will qualify for a medical exemption, and others will seek a religious exemption. We want to protect people’s rights, that’s what the governor has done here. But the best answer to this is to vaccinate with the safest vaccine we can imagine right now, and folks should do that.”

Constitutional rights

There is no constitutional right in jeopardy under a vaccine mandate. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1905, during the Jacobson v. Massachusetts case, to uphold the authority of states to enact compulsory vaccination laws. 

Additionally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has addressed that it’s legal under federal law for companies to require employees to get vaccinated before entering the workplace. Exceptions are made for pregnancy, religious beliefs, and health complications. 

The EEO states: “The federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19, subject to the reasonable accommodation provisions of Title VII and the ADA and other EEO considerations.” 

Local News

weather...
Stephanie Klein

Puget Sound region could see unstable weather as cold air moves in

After a beautiful fall Saturday, the Puget Sound is due for a bout of unstable weather conditions.
14 hours ago
dees moines...
KIRO 7 News Staff

3 killed, 3 injured in shooting outside Des Moines sports bar

Three people were killed and three more were injured early Sunday in a shooting outside a Des Moines sports bar, police said.
14 hours ago
tacoma homicide...
Deborah Horne, KIRO 7 News

Third homicide in a week in Tacoma; homicides still below 2020

Neighbors are tense after a shooting early Saturday left a man dead at a homeless encampment on East 38th Street in Tacoma.
14 hours ago
Washington State University...
Associated Press

One killed, another injured in shooting near WSU campus

Police say a man has been arrested in connection with a shooting that killed one person and injured another near the Washington State University campus early Saturday morning.
2 days ago
homeless camp...
Andrew Scheinthal, KIRO 7 News

Seattle business attempts to clear homeless camp, backtracks after advocates step in

A Seattle business is facing heat from homeless advocacy groups after they attempted to clear out an encampment off of Lake City Way.
2 days ago
COVID, hospitals...
Nick Bowman

‘Tough few weeks ahead’ as state’s hospitals continue to struggle with flood of COVID patients

While Washington's COVID crisis has begun to stabilize in recent weeks, health officials warn that the state's hospitals are not quite out of the woods yet. 
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
...
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
Courtesy of JWatch Photography....
Experience Anacortes

Summer Fun Activities in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
...
By Alaska Airlines

Calling all football fans: follow Russell on the road

Take your Northwest spirit that we’re known for on the road this season with Alaska Airlines.
...
By Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
Gov. Inslee: ‘No reason to abandon a career’ over COVID vaccine mandate