With Washington’s vaccine mandate deadline imminent, a minority chooses resignation
Meet the Washington state workers who are leaving their jobs over Gov. Inslee’s vaccine mandate.
Washington state’s COVID vaccine mandate for most government, healthcare, and education employees is set to take effect Oct. 18. While Department of Health is reporting that upwards of three quarters of the eligible population has been vaccinated, and that number is higher among professions subject to the mandate, there is a minority coalition which has decided to take a stand against the mandate and accept termination or resignation.
KIRO Radio has spoken with a number of those people to better understand their opposition to the vaccine mandate.
Sheryl Querin appeared on KIRO’s Gee and Ursula Show. She is a nurse, 61, from Moses Lake who has worked for much of her professional life in anesthetics. She contracted COVID last year, and therefore has natural immunity against the virus. She told KIRO that the mandate’s in-accommodation for her situation is reason enough to leave a “dream job.”
“They accepted my religious exemption, but they were not willing to make any accommodations for me to continue working in healthcare with patients if I wasn’t vaccinated,” Querin said.
“I am not anti-vaccine. I have had all the vaccines for… measles, mumps and rubella,” she continued.
“To me, the science says when you have an illness or a disease, you have a natural immunity. I had COVID in December of last year, and I have a natural immunity. They are basically just telling me, ‘no, that doesn’t count.’ I shouldn’t have to be vaccinated against something that doesn’t provide me better immunity than what my body already provides me with.”
“They’re lumping us people who have immunity in with the group of non-vaccinated people and I don’t think that’s fair.”
“I know nurses who are new graduates who have left their dream job because of this mandate. I would have.”
Christopher Anderson, deckhand with Washington State Ferries, is also resigning over the mandate.
He spoke with KIRO’s Dori Monson Show, claiming that the recent ferry cancelations are from deliberate labor actions, “sick outs,” as he and other ferry employees are demanding that they receive accommodations to avoid the vaccine mandate.
Representatives from various ferry labor organizers have denied that the cancelations stem from labor disputes, and report high compliance with the mandate.
“You have over 200 employees that the ferries are going to fire,” Anderson said. “They’ve already reduced the schedule. Starting October 16, passengers [from] Bainbridge, Edmonds, Kingston, Mukilteo are only going to have a one boat service.”
“Upper management [is] deciding to cripple the ferry system instead of providing reasonable accommodations.”
When asked about his plan for unemployment, he had this to say:
“I’ve been saying my prayers,” Anderson said.
“I’m holding out hope that, you know, hopefully they’ll come around, and they’ll be able to find reasonable accommodations for us, so myself and others [can] keep providing this essential service.”
“If we get fired, and you know there’ll be lawsuits, and we’ll have to find other jobs,” he said.
The Dori Monson Show also spoke with Seattle Fire Department’s Lieutenant Shaun Schenkelberg on his decision to leave over the mandate.
“I’ve been with Seattle fire since 1998,” Schenkelberg said.” I’ve got five kids, a wife. I love this job. I love serving the the citizens of Seattle. I love doing my job, and this is going to be taken from us.”
“I just don’t believe that I should be putting something in my body that I don’t agree with.”
He was vocal about the labor shortages, which his department has experienced in recent months, and implied that the mandate will compound that issue.
“This whole summer has been terrible for us because we’ve had people out on disability, we’ve had people retire,” Schenkelberg continued. “I have worked, since the summer, 20-24 hour shifts of overtime because they needed to have people. That’s what’s going to happen: there’s going to be reduced coverage.”
When asked to expand on his reasons for rejecting the COVID vaccine, he affirmed the idea that personal choice is important to him.
Washington state vaccination rate
As of Oct. 11, the Washington State Department of Health reports that 77.6% of the eligible population (ages 12+) in the state had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The DOH reports 71.4% is fully vaccinated.
Find a location to get vaccinated here.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 65.6 % of people in the U.S. have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. About 56.7 % of the population is fully vaccinated, or 188 million people, as of Oct. 14.
Gov. Inslee said on Thursday that 90% of state employees have shown proof of vaccination against COVID-19.
“People have had 10 weeks to get vaccinated,” Gov. Inslee said.
Vaccination rates in Washington hospitals
The Washington State Hospital Association said it surveyed members about vaccination rates after October 4 — the cutoff date to get the shot and allow for two weeks of immunity ahead of the Oct. 18 deadline. According to the survey, 88% of hospital staff statewide had shown proof of vaccination. The survey included 94% of hospitals reporting.
“There is variability among hospitals’ vaccination rates, however,” the WSHA wrote in a news release. “The remaining 12 percent are a mix of staff who are partially vaccinated, have an approved exemption and accommodation, have applied or plan to apply for an exemption that has not yet been reviewed, have not yet provided verification, or are choosing not to be vaccinated.”
The association said it expects two to five percent of hospital staff could leave due to the vaccine requirement, but it won’t have a final count until early November.
Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.
Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.