State employee vaccination increases ahead of mandate deadline

As a crucial deadline for Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate approaches, state data shows that vaccination numbers for Washington state workers subject to the requirement are about 20% higher than earlier this month.

The Seattle Times reported that more than two-thirds of Washington workers have gotten their shots.

By Oct. 4, most workers must show that they have gotten all their shots in order to be considered fully vaccinated by Oct. 18.

Meanwhile, state agencies have granted nearly 800 accommodations to state workers whose religious or medical exemptions from the mandate were approved. The accommodations allow workers to avoid getting fired for not being vaccinated, and allow them to work in a role that does not put others at potential risk.

RELATED: Washington state employees ratify vaccine mandate agreement

Inslee in a news conference last week said he was holding firm to the Oct. 18 deadline.

While confirmed cases and hospitalizations have recently begun to drop, hospitals remain stressed and about 30 Washingtonians are dying from the virus daily.

As of Sept. 20, a little over 68% of the nearly 63,000 workers subject to the mandate have been verified as vaccinated, up from up from 49% as of Sept. 6, according to data from the Office of Financial Management.

State workers have protested Inslee’s mandates, with several thousand seeking religious or medical exemptions to avoid the shots.

RELATED: Religious exemption not enough to save jobs as vaccine mandate looms

But an exemption alone is not enough to save a worker’s job. Those whose exemptions are approved must still be granted an accommodation that allows them to keep working in a role acceptable to both the agency and the worker.

A hearing was held Monday in a lawsuit by hundreds of workers opposed to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, with a judge in Walla Walla granting the Inslee administration’s request to move the case to Thurston County.

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