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Gov. Inslee announces COVID-19 vaccine mandate for most state, health care workers

Workers will need to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 to get their final dose of the vaccine or face termination.

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists with the surging delta variant, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a new vaccination mandate Monday, telling most state employees and health care workers to get vaccinated or find another job.

The mandate was also adopted by King County and the city of Seattle and includes those working in treatment facilities, assisted living facilities and most contractors, volunteers and other positions that have an onsite presence in any of these workplace settings.

According to Inslee’s office, there will be no alternative for workers who do not want to get the vaccine, meaning those who still choose to not get the shot will no longer be employed with the state or private business.

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These workers will have to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18, which means they need to get their final dose by Oct. 4.

The proclamation does not cover separately elected officials, according to Inslee’s office, nor any boards and commissions or K-12 and higher education institutions. However, the state is urging these groups to adopt an approach similar to Inslee’s approach.

According to Inslee’s office, employers will be responsible for verifying employees’ vaccination status.

The state said it is not opting for a “vaccination or test” approach because it has not seen success in curbing the virus in places like Department of Corrections buildings and long-term care facilities. The plan would also cost about $66 million a year across all state agencies.

The only exemptions will be for those who have a religious or medical reason for not getting vaccinated.

In terms of masking, Inslee is not updating the current guidance that recommends everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask in indoor public places.

Concerned about the rise in the highly transmissible delta variant, King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin recommended vaccine mandates at the end of July, but came short of creating any requirements.

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Some Washington companies have already implemented vaccine mandates for employees and vendors. For example, Redmond-based Microsoft is requiring vaccines for anyone working in any of the tech giant's U.S. buildings.

The Pentagon announced Monday it would require vaccines for all U.S. troops by Sept. 15.

At the end of July, Duchin also announced he recommended vaccine mandates for health care professionals amid the surging delta variant.

Health care facilities that have already announced plans to implement a vaccine requirement include the MultiCare Health System and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Statewide, nearly 70% of eligible Washingtonians have received at least one dose of the vaccine as of Aug. 4, according to the state Department of Health.

Despite news of "breakthrough" cases, health officials have continued to urge residents to get vaccinated, saying that it is highly effective even against the highly transmissible delta variant.

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