What to know now that Oct. 18 deadline for vaccine mandate has arrived

Oct 17, 2021, 10:12 AM | Updated: Oct 18, 2021, 9:20 am
Gov. Jay Inslee, Idaho...
Gov. Jay Inslee meeting with health officials in Spokane County. (Twitter)

The deadline for state workers, including educators, and healthcare workers to show their employers proof that they’re vaccinated against COVID-19 is Monday, Oct. 18.

Employees who are not vaccinated or who have not been approved for religious or medical exemption will lose their job.

Gov. Inslee made clear on last week that he’s holding firm to Monday’s deadline.

“People have had 10 weeks to get vaccinated,” Inslee said.

“The sky-high vaccination rates we’re seeing should settle any concerns,” Inslee further clarified in subsequent a news release, claiming that “there will not be massive disruptions in state services.”

Washington hospitals, health care workers

The Washington State Hospital Association said it had 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. 

According to the survey, “The remaining 12% 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 between 2 and 5% of hospital staff could leave due to the vaccine requirement, but it won’t have a final count until early November. The survey does not include military hospitals, physicians, and dentists.

State employees and school districts

The governor also touted a 92% vaccination rate among about 61,000 state employees. Check out the department breakdown here.

According to the Seattle Times, the state has approved 4,200 of 4,800 requested religious or medical exemptions. However, employees can still lose their jobs if accommodations can’t be made to limit public contact.

It’s not clear yet how many K-12 educators have proved vaccination. Individual districts are handling exemptions. The Spokane Public Schools said no employees will lose their jobs due to the mandate, as reported by the Spokesman-Review. About 460 employees reportedly sought exemption.

In Seattle, the school district announced on Monday it’s suspending 142 bus routes due to expected reductions in drivers, which are contracted through First Student.

In the memo to families, SPS said it’s anticipating a “significant decrease” in the number of bus drivers available following the state’s Oct. 18 COVID vaccine mandate.

Seattle and King County employees

The City of Seattle and King County are also under an Oct. 18 deadline. However, an agreement between the county and unions relaxed that timeline to complete the vaccination process by Dec. 2.

It’s unclear how many officers with the Seattle Police Department will turn in their proof of vaccination before the Oct. 18 deadline. Sergeant Randy Huserik told KIRO Radio last week that there were about 290 officers whose paperwork had not yet been submitted.

Police Chief Adrian Diaz sent a memo to officers on Friday, encouraging them to get vaccinated and to submit their paperwork.

According to KIRO 7 TV, the King County Sheriff’s Office has told its unvaccinated workers to continue showing up to work, and that they will soon receive letters in the mail explaining next steps.

Amid challenges to an expected reduction in workforce after the Monday deadline passes are staffing shortages across Washington State Ferries and King County Metro. Metro had to cancel about 80 trips on Friday and 26 trips were canceled on Thursday.

“We are hiring and training up to 54 part-time operators, with two classes underway and three classes graduating in November,” Metro wrote.

The ferry system said last week’s issues were the direct result of staffing problems, citing COVID-19 restrictions that have “not allowed us to hire or train new recruits at the same rate as prior to the pandemic.”

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What to know now that Oct. 18 deadline for vaccine mandate has arrived