King County Councilmember calls on leaders to avoid mass firings by allowing weekly COVID testing

In a letter sent Monday, King County Council Vice Chair Reagan Dunn called on King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan to offer a weekly testing requirement for COVID-19 as an alternative to mandatory vaccination to avert "imminent mass firings." 

On Oct. 18, state and other government employees are facing termination if they are not fully vaccinated, per a state mandate issued by Gov. Jay Inslee.

"I am growing increasingly concerned that these mandates will force hundreds, if not thousands, of dedicated public servants out of their jobs. Mass termination of our government employees would result in staffing shortages and cripple our ability to serve the public in the way in which we are obligated," Dunn wrote in the letter. "I am particularly concerned what this means for our ability to retain law enforcement officers, critical public health staff and other civil servants who we desperately need during these unprecedented times.

In his letter, Dunn points out that 292 Seattle Police Officers and 200 King County Sheriff’s deputies have yet to submit proof of vaccination. Meanwhile, the City of Seattle has already seen a mass exodus of 300 police officers over the past year, while the King County Sheriff’s Office struggles to fill its 59 vacant deputy positions.

the latest numbers show as many as 172 employees in the King County Sheriff’s Office have not shown proof of vaccination or asked for an exemption. Another 95 have exemption requests pending.  

RELATED: Seattle Police Department braces for mass firing of officers as hundreds have yet to show proof of vaccination

Dunn said while he agrees that it's good that most people need to get vaccinated, "I think they have to go in a different direction because you cannot operate our government without law enforcement." 

In response, Executive Constantine said in a statement: 

"The most effective tool we have against COVID are the safe, effective vaccines, and we continue to work with employees to help answer any questions they may have about getting their vaccine, and encourage them to get vaccinated as soon as possible."

Mayor Durkan's office had a similar response, saying testing options have proven less effective. 

"Any city employees can retain their positions by simply being vaccinated," a spokesperson for Durkan's office said. 

Dunn also said that King County and Seattle’s vaccination mandate is even more restrictive than President Biden’s national mandate, which allows for weekly testing in lieu of vaccination. This restrictiveness is despite Seattle and King County having some of the highest vaccination rates in the nation.

King County did extend its vaccine deadline to Dec. 2 for employees who begin the vaccination process by Oct. 18. The deadline for the city of Seattle still stands at Oct. 18. 

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