Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Monday a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for most government and health care workers, as well as hundreds of thousands of private health care and long-term care employees.
Those whom the mandate applies to will be required to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, by Oct. 18 as a condition of employment.
Unlike other state leaders who have rolled out similar mandates, Inslee has not made regular testing an option for those who do not want to be vaccinated. The only way to opt out of the mandate is with a medical or religious exemption.
At a press briefing on Monday, the Democratic governor cited a surge in cases and hospitalizations in the state linked to the highly infectious Delta COVID-19 variant.
“We have what is essentially a new virus at our throats,” he said. “The state of Washington is taking decisive action.”
The requirement applies to executive cabinet agencies, which are supported by roughly 60,000 employees across 24 state agencies. Any contractor wanting to do work with the state will also be required to be vaccinated.
“These workers live in every community in our state, working together and with the public every day to deliver services,” Inslee said. “We have a duty to protect them from the virus, they have the right to be protected, and the communities they serve and live in deserve protection as well.”
According to a fact sheet issued to employees, those who are currently working remotely will also be affected by the mandate, as they may need to go to a work site at some point in the future.
Inslee has also spoken with others industries not included in his order, such as higher education, local governments, the legislative branch, other statewide elected officials, and the private sector, to encourage them to impose their own vaccine requirements, his office said.
“It is the mission of public servants and those providing health care to serve our fellow Washingtonians. These workers live in every community in our state, working together and with the public every day to deliver services,” Inslee said. “We have a duty to protect them from the virus, they have the right to be protected, and the communities they serve and live in deserve protection as well.”
He added, “The reason we’re in this pickle today is because 30 percent of our eligible citizens, so far, have chosen not to get to the vaccine.”
Republican Sen. Mike Padden criticized the mandate, saying that it violates citizens’ basic human rights.
People “don’t deserve to be bullied and threatened into putting something into their body that they don’t want,” he told The Associated Press. “This is not only unnecessary and likely to result in greater rejection of the vaccine, but it’s a violation of basic civil liberties.”
President Joe Biden also recently approved rules requiring that federal workers provide proof of vaccination or face regular testing, travel restrictions, and mask mandates.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in an Aug. 6 update that new data on the Delta variant shows that no vaccine is 100 percent effective as fully vaccinated people are still capable of spreading the virus to others, although vaccinated people “appear to be infectious for a shorter period.”
The agency added that breakthrough infections of the Delta variant “seems to produce the same high amount of virus in both unvaccinated and fully vaccinated people,” bringing into question whether vaccine mandates are justifiable given the implications for government infringement on individual liberties.
The CDC has been contacted for comment.
Meanwhile, former CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield told Fox News’ “The Story” on Monday that he hopes that Americans continue to get vaccinated.
“The one thing that we have against the variant’s evolution kinetics is we have vaccination,” he said. “And it really is so important that one thing that we all can do that can really confront the evolution of this next variant, slow it down, is to really continue to get our population vaccination and more importantly, I believe … making sure that we’re doing what we can do to maintain the immunity in the vulnerable individuals.
“It’s very clear that the durability of this vaccine is not going to be a vaccine that’s durable year after year,” he added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.