Local lawmaker pushes alternative for unvaccinated workers ahead of mandate deadline
With hundreds of Seattle Police Department officers and King County Sheriff’s deputies having yet to submit their proof of COVID-19 vaccination, a local lawmaker is pushing for an alternative for the city and county’s upcoming vaccine mandate.
A vaccine mandate for Seattle and King County workers takes effect on Oct. 18. Employees who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 could face termination.
As of late last week, nearly 300 SPD officers and 200 King County Sheriff’s deputies had yet to submit proof of vaccination. The Seattle Police Officers Guild also remains one of the few city unions that has yet to reach an agreement with Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office on the logistics of the mandate.
The mayor’s office reached a deal with the Coalition of City Unions, Seattle Fire Fighters Union Local 27, and IBEW Local 77 in late September. That agreement grants members of those unions several incentives for getting fully vaccinated, including eight extra hours of paid time off, and up to 80 hours of paid leave for COVID-related reasons.
Given the more unsettled status of local law enforcement, King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn is petitioning Durkan and County Executive Dow Constantine, asking that they offer a weekly testing requirement for unvaccinated workers as an alternative.
“I am growing increasingly concerned that these mandates will force hundreds, if not thousands, of dedicated public servants out of their jobs,” Dunn wrote, noting that the city and county mandate is more strict than a national mandate from President Joe Biden, which allows for weekly testing.
“Mass termination of our government employees would result in staffing shortages and cripple our ability to serve the public in the way in which we are obligated,” he added.
In early October, interim SPD Chief Adrian Diaz issued a letter to his department “asking anyone who has not yet submitted (proof of vaccination) to please get it done,” citing the risk of “a disruption to unit of assignments.”
Dunn expressed similar concerns, further pointing to recent increases in gun violence and homicides across Seattle and King County.