OLYMPIA, Wash. — All K-12 and higher education employees and some childcare providers are now required to be vaccinated, Gov. Jay Inslee announced in a Wednesday press conference.
Inslee also expanded the existing statewide indoor mask mandate to include everyone, regardless of vaccination status. The mandate previously only applied to unvaccinated individuals.
The mask mandate expansion goes into effect Monday, Aug. 23.
“This virus is increasingly impacting young people, and those under the age of 12 still can’t get the vaccine for themselves. We won’t gamble with the health of our children, our educators and school staff, nor the health of the communities they serve,” Inslee said.
The educator vaccine requirement applies to:
- K-12 educators, school staff, coaches, bus drivers, school volunteers and others working in school facilities
- Employees in higher education institutions
- Childcare and early learning providers who serve children from multiple households
“Especially when so many students aren’t yet eligible to receive the vaccine – and the protection against the virus that comes along with it – our staff must join together to create as strong of a protective barrier as possible,” said State Superintendent Chris Reykdal.
The vaccine requirement is a condition of employment and applies to public, private and charter schools. It does not include tribal schools.
Educators and staff have until Oct. 18 to get fully vaccinated, the same timeline laid out for state employees. Exemptions will be granted for medical reasons or sincerely held religious beliefs - Inslee said personal or philosophical objections do not qualify.
“Knowing that an in-person learning experience surrounded by their educators, caring staff, and peers is the best opportunity for most students, we must do everything we can to make our schools as safe and healthy as possible,” Reykdal said.
The vaccine requirement does not apply to students, regardless of age.
Inslee said the expansion in the mask mandate and the vaccine requirements comes after Washington broke the previous record for COVID hospitalizations set in September.
All counties in Washington currently fall within the CDC guidelines for substantial or high transmission.
The Department of Health is also recommending masking in crowded outdoor settings such as concerts, fairs and farmers markets.
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