Washington Secretary of State’s office ends holdout, will implement COVID vaccine mandate
The Washington Secretary of State’s office will finally implement Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 state worker vaccine mandate, after operating as the lone holdout under Kim Wyman.
Inslee’s mandate applied to staff members of all state agencies, except for those working under an elected official. Up until this week, the Secretary of State’s Office was the only department that opted not to apply the mandate, with Wyman stating that she “couldn’t live with forcing someone to choose between keeping their job and getting a vaccine.”
Wyman — a Republican — left the role in November of 2021. Democrat Steve Hobbs was appointed by Inslee to replace Wyman until a special election is held in November of 2022. The winner of that election will serve out the remaining two years of Wyman’s term, followed by a regularly scheduled election for the office in 2024.
Speaking to his decision to implement the vaccine mandate, Hobbs described it as a “commitment to the health and safety of our employees.”
According to numbers provided by Hobbs’ office, an estimated 70% of employees working under him have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, although he does expect that “there will probably be a few employees” who will opt to leave their roles over the mandate.
Similar vaccine worker mandates are also in place for King County and Seattle city employees, despite receiving significant pushback from members of law enforcement within the Seattle Police Department and King County Sheriff’s Office. As of November of 2021, 95% of county workers were reported to be vaccinated. Seattle reported a 94% vaccination rate among its own city-level employees.