Governor’s office stonewalls on providing an update on hardline vaccine mandate

By ELIZABETH HOVDE  | 
Apr 29, 2022
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In March, Gov. Jay Inslee lifted his indoor mask mandate while making it clear he would not be lifting his vaccine mandate on state employees, educators and most health care workers. 

Yes, the governor is holding onto his discriminatory and invasive mandate that was outdated even before it began, given what we knew about COVID-19, who is at greatest risk and the fact that the vaccine does not stop the spread of the virus. In fact, he added more employees to his vaccinate-or-terminate list as late as March 23 to include contractors who work with the Secretary of State’s Office — never mind that hospitalization and death rates were down, that neighboring Oregon just announced the end of a similar vaccine mandate on its state workers, or that the state’s new WA Forward campaign is supposed to be transitioning us to an era of personal “empowerment.” 

The state’s Office of Financial Management says that more than 2,100 state workers have been fired, resigned or retired because of the mandate. This has meant disruptions in service levels, including work shortages that contributed to this winter’s mountain pass closures, Washington State Ferry delays, and concerns in public safety, care facilities and hospitals. Worse, it has upended people’s careers and made many Washingtonians less financially secure. 

When both vaccinated and unvaccinated people can spread COVID-19 — and natural immunity is ignored — employment mandates show themselves for what they are: discriminatory and punitive. If a state is looking to ease hospitalizations, an approach that does not discriminate against workers is needed. And low hospitalization rates were used to justify the end of the mask mandate — a far less invasive state mandate.

Harsh COVID-19 policies have been accompanied by a lack of transparency from our governor. 

I've asked the governor’s office via email and its phone numbers for both public inquiries and the press several times for an update. Instead of helpful public information, I got an automated voice with this message to my call Thursday: “We’re sorry. The number you have dialed has calling restrictions that have prevented the completion of your call.” 

Inslee refuses to reconsider a misguided policy that is ruining lives and that has lowered the quality of taxpayer-funded services. Refusing to even talk about the vaccine mandate won’t make legitimate questions go away, nor does hunkering down become someone who fancies himself a defender of Democracy. 

Washington should end its hardline vaccine mandate and let dedicated employees who have devoted their lives to public service get back to serving the community.