Washington’s Democrat Governor Jay Inslee issued a directive Thursday making Covid vaccines & boosters a permanent condition of employment for state workers in executive and small cabinet agencies. The new directive is stricter than many healthcare facilities and sparked concerns that it may cause more staffing shortages, especially for first responders and transportation employees.
Inslee, who has had emergency powers for 852 days, wrote in the directive, "vaccines are effective in reducing infection and serious disease," but tested positive for the virus himself last month.
At the time he wrote that he had "only very mild symptoms, and I'm thankful to be vaccinated and boosted," according to the governor’s office his doctor "set up" Paxlovid antiviral treatments, which is not typically used for mild cases, rather used for patients with more extreme symptoms.
According to Inslee’s directive, "As a condition of employment, all new employees of state agencies must be vaccinated against COVID-19 with the most up-to-date vaccination, including any additional doses or boosters, as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)."
All current "exempt employees" must be fully vaccinated. "Current exempt employees will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 with the most up-to-date vaccination as recommended by the CDC beginning July 1, 2023."
Inslee has spent the days since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade railing against "anti-choice laws," the mantra for which is "my body my choice."
Inslee announced another directive Thursday instructing state law enforcement not to "cooperate with investigations, prosecutions, or other legal actions based on another state’s anti-choice laws."
Inslee’s vaccine directive for employees was issued despite COVID cases in the state being on the decline, and staffing shortages because of his previous mandates continuing to plague police departments, fire departments and the Washington State Department of Transportation, among other agencies.
Like his original vaccine mandate for state employees, Inslee’s new directive stated, "The requirements of this directive are subject to disability-related reasonable accommodations and sincerely held religious belief accommodations that are required under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehabilitation Act), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), and any other applicable law."
However, following Inslee’s original mandate, agencies granted exemptions to employees, but then refused to grant them accommodations, leading to employees being terminated. This despite accommodations being made for all employees to be able to work during the height of the pandemic, but before the vaccine was available.
Additionally, beginning in April, the rate of Covid-19 infections among boosted Americans was 119 cases per 100,000 people, more than double the rate of infections in those who were vaccinated but unboosted, and being hospitalized at a higher rate.
Inslee acknowledged in his vaccine directive that "COVID-19 appears to be here to stay," and recognized that “antivirals are reasons to be hopeful” but did not recognize immunity from having already had the virus as an alternative to vaccination.
The directive defined a person "fully vaccinated" against COVID-19 "two weeks after they have received the second dose in a two-dose series of a COVID-19 vaccine (e.g., Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) or a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine (e.g., Johnson & Johnson (J&J)/Janssen) authorized for emergency use, licensed, or otherwise authorized or approved by the FDA or listed for emergency use or otherwise approved by the World Health Organization."
A person would be considered "up to date" with their COVID-19 vaccination "when they have received all doses in the primary series and all boosters recommended for them by the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, when they become eligible."
Inslee did note that the new directive would have to be negotiated with unions but non-union employees were automatically subject to the directive.
Inslee ended his directive by saying, "I call upon our higher education institutions, boards and commissions, and other separately elected officials to consider similar requirements within their agencies and jurisdictions."
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