State vaccine mandate takes effect in 2 weeks

SEATTLE — The vaccine mandate takes effect statewide on Oct. 18. People who are not vaccinated can meet the mandate if they get the Johnson and Johnson single dose vaccine on Monday, Oct. 4.

On the Washington State Hospital Association weekly call, hospital leaders say the mandate did increase the vaccination rate at local hospitals.

At Swedish it went from about 86% before the mandate to about 92%. They expect to have 99% compliance, including the approved exemptions. When it comes to the employees quitting over the mandate, Swedish expects it to be less than half a percent, only about 37 employees.

“We’re feeling cautiously optimistic at this rate. I think we can say we’re optimistic,” said Kristy Carrington, Chief Nursing Officer, Swedish.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are down about 12% this week over last week, according to the Washington State Hospital Association. MultiCare Health System says it is still overwhelmed with patients.

“We as a system are still at 180 patients who are COVID positive. Many in the ICU and pediatric ICU at Mary Bridge. Our patients are very, very sick,” said Dr. Michael Myint, MultiCare Health System.

MultiCare says more than 90% of its caregivers are vaccinated.

The hospitals system is worried about staffing shortages at nursing homes and skilled nursing centers.

“In the past week our hospitals have been reporting record high levels of patients that are ready to discharge to long term care facilities that cannot get a spot in a long -term care facility,” explained Taya Briley of the Washington State Hospital Association. They worry the vaccine mandate will make the situation worse.

The Washington State Hospital Association is sending a survey to hospitals to find out how many employees are vaccinated, ahead of the Oct. 18 deadline. They hope to have the results by Oct.11.