Gov. Jay Inslee, front, talks to reporters in Olympia earlier this month as Secretary of Health Umair Shah looks on. Inslee announced Thursday that 94 percent of state workers complied with a state mandate to either get the COVID-19 vaccine or be approved for an exemption. (Rachel La Corte/The Associated Press)

Gov. Jay Inslee, front, talks to reporters in Olympia earlier this month as Secretary of Health Umair Shah looks on. Inslee announced Thursday that 94 percent of state workers complied with a state mandate to either get the COVID-19 vaccine or be approved for an exemption. (Rachel La Corte/The Associated Press)

Inslee: 94 percent of state employees comply with vaccine mandate

By Nicholas K. Geranios

The Associated Press

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday applauded numbers showing that some 94 percent of state employees are vaccinated against COVID-19 or have received exemptions from his mandate, and 3.1 percent are waiting to get a vaccine or exemption.

Inslee said another 2.9 percent of state employees have left their jobs, either by quitting or retiring.

“They have understood this is not just about me, it’s about we,” Inslee said of state employees who are vaccinated.

Inslee spoke in Olympia after the state education department said nearly nine out of 10 public school employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The 89 percent vaccination rate announced by education officials is slightly lower than that of other state employees.

Inslee said the number of COVID-19 cases in the state has been declining for the past two months, but that decline has plateaued in the past two weeks.

“This is worrying,” he said.

Washington continues to average some 2,000 coronavirus cases a day, the Democrat said.

“We still have an extremely dangerous pandemic on our hands,” Inslee said, adding that residents must choose whether to fight the virus or accept it as an ongoing fact of life. “We should fight it.”

Science is not clear on how many people must be vaccinated to beat the virus, Inslee said, and he could not predict what the end game of the pandemic will be.

“I do not have a crystal ball to predict the course of this virus,” he said, adding he hopes there will not be a sixth wave of COVID-19 this winter as people move indoors.

More than 1,800 Washington state workers have been fired, resigned or retired due to the state’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate, according to data released last week. Washington’s vaccine mandate is believed to be among the strictest in the nation.

Inslee also was asked if he would agree with requests from Republicans that Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican who is leaving to join the Biden administration in election security, should be replaced by another member of the GOP.

“Republicans do not own the secretary of state’s office,” Inslee said, adding that he is early in the process of choosing Wyman’s replacement.

But he said the successful candidate will understand that the nation’s election integrity faces threats from numerous sources and that experience in cybersecurity is a must.

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