The governor’s hardline vaccine mandate — where people lose jobs — hurts the state, undermines the Legislature’s role and offers another example of why we need emergency powers reform

Oct 14, 2021

The COVID vaccines are protecting people from severe illness and death at impressive rates. Yet, instead of boosting confidence in them, easing doubts and finding ways to address concerns about the state’s stretched medical resources with the Legislature, Gov. Inslee is building division and targeting a group of Washingtonians. His vaccine mandate, considered the strictest in the nation, as people lose their livelihoods if not vaccinated, is not patient centered, feels punitive and ignores the fact that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people can spread COVID-19. 

Meanwhile, he is erasing personal freedom, creating jobless individuals, increasing staff shortages and dismissing the concerns of some business owners who are being used as enforcers. 

This week, he boasted about the increases in vaccination rates among state employees ahead of his required October 18 vaccine deadline. Let’s be clear, though: He has been successful at forcing people to do something they’re opposed to doing by threatening their careers. That should not be a proud moment for any leader. And speaking in percentages about vaccination rates allows the governor to gloss over the fact that thousands are facing job loss in Washington.

Jerry Cornfield, political reporter for The (Everett) Herald, Tweeted, “Of 61,821 state workers, 89.53% were vaccinated as of Oct. 7. If you subtract 1,573 with approved accommodations, vax rate climbs to 91.87% per @WA_OFM. That leaves roughly 4,900 who could be in process of getting the jab or exemption, or in danger of losing their job.”

Cornfield also reported, “While Inslee predicted limited impacts, the mandate is already affecting some services,” and, “Washington State Ferries cancelled a number of sailings in recent days due to a lack of workers.”

Ferry workers, state troopers, public educators and public safety employees are among more than 100 workers suing the governor and state agency heads over the requirement.

People are already experiencing shortages in hospitals, a problem that will be exacerbated by the vaccine mandate. KIRO 7 News reports, “The Washington State Hospital Association issued a warning on Monday, saying hospitals statewide could lose 2% to 5% of their staff in one week. This means they’re expecting 3,000 to 7,500 employees to leave once the state’s vaccine mandate takes effect.”

The Seattle Police Department could be forced to fire up to 40 percent of its workforce when the statewide COVID-19 vaccination mandate goes into effect, according to data posted by the department and reported by many news outlets.

Feelings about vaccination and the choice to remain unvaccinated vary. The Legislature, which is supposed to represent us, should be discussing policies that promote public health while protecting civil rights and our democracy.

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