State worker vaccination increases ahead of mandate deadline

OLYMPIA — As a crucial deadline for Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate approaches, state data shows vaccination numbers for workers subject to the requirement are about 20 percent higher than earlier this month.

The Seattle Times reported more than two-thirds of state workers have gotten their shot.

By Oct. 4, most workers must show they have gotten all their shots in order to be considered fully vaccinated by Oct. 18.

Meanwhile, state agencies have granted nearly 800 accommodations to state workers whose religious or medical exemptions were approved.

The accommodations allow workers to avoid getting fired for not being vaccinated, and they allow them to work in a role that does not put others at potential risk.

Inslee said in a news conference last week that he was holding firm to the Oct. 18 deadline.

While confirmed cases and hospitalizations have recently begun to drop, hospitals remain stressed. About 30 Washingtonians are dying from the virus daily.

As of Sept. 20, a little more than 68 percent of the nearly 63,000 workers subject to the mandate have been verified as vaccinated, up from 49 percent as of Sept. 6, according data from the state Office of Financial Management.

State workers have protested Inslee’s mandates, with several thousand seeking religious or medical exemptions to avoid the shots.

But an exemption alone is not enough to save a worker’s job. Those whose exemptions are approved must still be granted an accommodation that allows them to keep working in a role acceptable to both the agency and the worker.

A hearing was conducted Monday in a lawsuit by hundreds of workers opposed to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, with a judge in Walla Walla granting the Inslee administration’s request to move the case to Thurston County.

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