State workers, most health and long-term care providers and education employees will have to submit proof that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 on Monday or risk losing their jobs per a mandate announced by Gov. Jay Inslee in early August.
King County and City of Seattle employees are also required to submit proof of vaccination by Monday.
As of last week, 92% of state employees, 88% of Seattle firefighters and 84% of Seattle Police Department employees had been vaccinated.
Both Seattle fire and police departments have contingency plans in place in case of staffing shortages due to the mandate. Last week, SPD moved to stage 3 operations, meaning detectives and other patrol units could respond to 911 calls. Seattle Fire is activating its resource management center to monitor response data in real-time.
The state did allow employees to work with their human resources offices if they needed a “reasonable accommodation for medical or religious reasons” for an exemption.
The state also allowed for a few exceptions, reaching agreements with some union workers, which allowed them to use leave to get caught up if they were denied an exemption.
What happens next for unvaccinated employees who don’t have an exemption depends on the entity.
For instance, King County officials struck a deal with a union representing a number of its employees that allows people to keep their jobs, for now, if they’re fully vaccinated by Dec. 2.
Leaders at the King County Sheriff’s Office are telling employees to keep coming to work and that letters will be coming in the mail explaining what happens next.
Seattle Public Schools is facing a bus driver shortage due to the mandate. However, the school district said it is working on an extension, allowing some drivers to be retained while more are being hired.
“So the mandate still kick(s) in, and they will still lose drivers, but drivers who would be able to have an exemption based on religious or medical categories for the governor’s mandate will not be lost immediately. SPS is providing a grace period for those people,” said Mary Ellen Russell with the School Transportation Committee.
On Friday, the district which contracts with First Student announced that it planned to suspend approximately 142 of the 600 routes on Monday.
However, bus service will continue for special education students as required by law.
Another court hearing regarding a challenge to the state vaccine mandate is scheduled for Monday morning. On Friday, a federal judge ruled against a restraining order to save the jobs of unvaccinated employees.
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