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Roughly 500 Washington Department of Corrections employees expected to leave over vaccine mandate

According to the department, 91% of their employees have turned in their vaccination cards as of Thursday night.

WASHINGTON, USA — Governor Jay Inslee's vaccine mandate goes into effect Monday, meaning some people who haven't been vaccinated yet could lose their jobs.

It impacts all state employees, including higher education, health care workers and K-12 educators, as well as employees with the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC).

According to the department, 91% of their employees have turned in their vaccination cards as of Thursday night. They’re expecting more to be turned in over the weekend and into Monday.

About 3% of DOC employees are being accommodated or are on some type of protective leave that makes it difficult for them to be vaccinated at this time, according to officials.

DOC Secretary Cheryl Strange says as of Friday morning, about 500 employees may be separating, but that remains to be seen.

“People are still turning in cards. Some people are waiting until the last minute to turn those cards in, so we’re hopeful with those numbers,” says Secretary Strange.

"We are deeply saddened by the people that are going to be leaving our agency because a lot of them have been here a long, long time,” says DOC Assistant Secretary of Prisons Mike Obenland. “I wish they wouldn't be leaving, but I respect what they're doing. I really sincerely do."

With the possibility of losing employees, the DOC has been busy figuring out plans to minimize the potential impacts, including consolidating some of their units. Officials says they have over 4,000 empty beds in the system.

Officials did say they’ve already had some of their units go through what they call a warm closure, which means there aren't any people living or working there, but they keep the power and water going so it can be used quickly if necessary.

Two locations they're keeping an eye on when it comes to the potential impacts is Clallam Bay Corrections Center and the Washington State Penitentiary.