Washington State mandates vaccine for state, health care workers

Via the AP:

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Most state workers in Washington, as well as hundreds of thousands of private health care and long-term care employees, will be required to show proof of vaccination for COVID-19 by Oct. 18 or face losing their jobs, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Monday.

Weekly testing will not be an option for those who want to avoid vaccination and maintain their employment, and the only way to opt out of the requirement is with a medical or religious exemption.

Inslee said the new rules — believed to be among the nation’s strictest — were necessary because of an increase in cases and hospitalizations tied to the delta variant.

“We have what is essentially a new virus at our throats,” he said at a news conference. “The state of Washington is taking decisive action.”

The governor’s order applies to about 60,000 employees of the 24 state agencies that are part of his executive Cabinet, which includes the departments of corrections, transportation and social and health services, and the Washington State Patrol. Vaccination will also be a requirement for any contractor wanting to do work with the state.

The order applies to those working remotely, since they may need to go to a work site at some point, according to a fact sheet issued to employees. The governor’s office said the overall number includes those who have already been vaccinated, so it’s unclear how many people the new rule affects.