Elizabeth Hovde emphatically states if the governor won’t end this mistreatment of the unvaccinated and allow public jobs to employ people regardless of their vaccination status, legislators need to step in while they are still in session
Washington Policy Center
Will 2023 be the charm? Realizations that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people could spread and contract COVID-19, which we knew back in 2021, were not enough to stop a misguided and punitive vaccine mandate on state employees before it even began. Nor were state staffing shortages, in part derived from the October 2021 firings of employees without COVID-19 shots.
Also ignored was health information about protection gained through natural immunity, the reality that vaccines were widely available to those who wanted their protection and the fact that working-age people were not the population group dying from COVID-19 and filling the state’s stressed hospitals. Even the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decision to remove the distinction between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated months ago wasn’t enough.
None of this has mattered. Instead, verbiage about the employment mandate that ruined careers and family budgets shifted from needing to protect others to needing to protect the workforce. (Yes, that’s the same workforce that lost nearly 1,900 workers because of the vaccine mandate.)
It’s a month past time for lawmakers in this year’s legislative session to intervene and protect this minority group of unvaccinated people in our state.
They’ll finally have the chance. I spoke to Rep. Cyndy Jacobsen, R-Puyallup who is going to file a bill to end the permanent vaccine mandate for new state hires that Gov. Jay Inslee won’t. It will pair nicely with her bill to rehire fired workers who want their jobs back. That bill, House Bill 1029, is going nowhere, despite state lawmakers saying workplace issues would be a priority this session.
The legislative action on the way is welcome news and good policy, as is the following decision: A Monday press release says, “Following updated public health guidelines, King County and the City of Seattle will no longer require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 as a condition of employment.”
Vaccine mandates are crumbling near and far, following the science. And I hope the state’s outlier status and news of Jacobsen’s bill filing convince Inslee it’s past time for his mandate to exit stage right, along with all the drama that has come along with it — unnecessarily and for no demonstrable public health benefit.
Just a week ago, when President Joe Biden was making news for a May 11 decision to end COVID-19 emergency orders, Inslee continued to double, triple and quadruple down on his decision to make getting a COVID-19 vaccination a permanent condition of state employment. A news story tells that in an interview with KVI’s John Carlson Jan. 30, Inslee said, “People are welcome to come back and work for us,” continuing, “Simply, they need to comply with our existing rules.” Protecting the workforce from being sick was important, he said.
Two days after this interview in which Inslee talked about people’s need to get the vaccine so they don’t have to be absent from work, sick with COVID-19, we learned that the vaccinated and thrice-boosted governor was having his second bout with COVID-19 and experiencing mild symptoms.
“The governor’s office made about 26 notifications of exposure to office staff, people and groups who met with Inslee in his office, and the organizers of events or meetings the governor attended,” The Seattle Times reported. It added that the total number of people notified wasn’t available at the time of the paper’s report, but there were also a few external meetings the governor attended whose organizers were notified.
I hope the governor is finishing up an easy recovery and that his sick and contagious status as a vaccinated person has him rethinking his outdated vaccine mandate. The state needs to end its permanent hiring ban on unvaccinated members of our society and allow our state to get back to work with reasonable personnel rules.
If Inslee won’t end this mistreatment of the unvaccinated and allow public jobs to employ people regardless of their vaccination status, legislators need to step in while they are still in session. They’ll have a bill to end the permanent vaccine mandate for new hires to fast-forward and consider soon.
Elizabeth Hovde is a policy analyst and the director of the Centers for Health Care and Worker Rights at the Washington Policy Center. She is a Clark County resident.
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