Gov. Inslee ends COVID-19 vaccine mandate for state employees
May 10, 2023, 12:21 PM | Updated: 1:01 pm
COVID-19 vaccinations will now be voluntary, starting May 11, for state employees. Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision to rescind the vaccine mandate coincides with the World Health Organization announcing the end of COVID-19 as a global health emergency.
“For more than three years, we have all faced incredible challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic impacted every aspect of our lives,” Inslee said in a prepared statement. “Throughout this public health crisis, our state employee family demonstrated inspiring resilience and dedication, and I thank our employees for their exemplary service under unprecedented circumstances. We have risen to the occasion during a defining moment in our history, and the measures we took helped us to achieve one of the lowest death rates in the nation.”
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The expiring mandate includes people in Governor Inslee’s office and his cabinet directors and staff. The governor’s mandate does not cover state workers in education, the Legislature, courts, or employees of elected state leaders.
But by July 25, Inslee will create a $1,000 bonus for eligible state employees who choose to provide their up-to-date vaccination status.
Washington state reported the fifth-lowest death rate among states in the U.S. among those with COVID-19, with only Vermont, Hawaii, Utah, and Alaska having a lower rate. Mississippi, Arizona, Alabama, West Virginia, and Tennessee reported the five highest COVID-19-related death rates.
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Nearly 1,900 state workers left or were terminated due to the vaccine mandate when it was implemented last July. Washington State Patrol Communications Director Chris Loftis claimed approximately 150 were from his state patrol department.
“We wouldn’t do anything independent of the governor’s direction with the governor’s office,” Loftis told KIRO Newsradio regarding potentially implementing a department-specific mandate.
Loftis stated anyone who left would be welcome to return as long as they are eligible and can pass standard background and polygraph tests.