Washington State Sets Vaccine Mandate for State, Health Care Workers

Washington State Sets Vaccine Mandate for State, Health Care Workers

Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington announced Monday that most state employees and all health care workers must be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by Oct. 18, or risk losing their jobs.

Mr. Inslee went beyond similar orders issued by other states by saying that a refusal could lead to being fired. This would apply to both private and public sector workers, including 60,000 state employees, as well as 14,000 that work for King County and 10,000 employed by Seattle.

While there will be a religious exemption, employees will not be able to forgo the vaccine and get tested weekly. Mr. Inslee’s office said that the cost for Covid-19 tests would be in the millions of dollars if continued indefinitely and the testing option had not worked well in facilities like prisons, privately run hospitals or nursing homes.

Mr. Inslee is using the emergency authority powers he was granted during the pandemic to issue the new order, his office said. The state licenses health care workers in private facilities and settings. The directive does not extend to workers in higher education, public education or employees of the legislative and judicial branches.

In Washington State, daily cases have soared 154 percent in the last two weeks to 2,206, according to a New York Times database, which also shows that hospitalizations have risen 60 percent and deaths are up 42 percent over the same period. Seventy percent of Washington residents 18 and older are fully vaccinated, according to a federal data. People younger than 12 are not eligible for the vaccines.

Health officials in California on Thursday ordered more than two million health care workers to be inoculated, largely removing an option that let unvaccinated employees submit to regular testing instead.

President Biden adopted the same policy when he announced that federal workers would face restrictions and requirements, including testing, if they did not get vaccinated.

Other states and territories, including New York, Virginia and Puerto Rico, have followed suit, telling their employees get their shots or go through regular testing.

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