Live blog: Workers face termination as vaccine deadline lands
Monday, October 18 is the deadline for all state employees, people working in child care, K-12, and higher education settings, and most health care and long-term care providers in Washington state to show proof of vaccination against Covid-19 as a condition of employment. King County and the city of Seattle have enacted similar mandates for employees.
Thus far, the mandates have seen high compliance rates. But thousands who are pushing back on them could be out of work by the end of the day.
Monday, October 18
As vaccination deadline passes, some healthcare services across WA could be cut
On deadline day, it’s still unclear exactly how many healthcare workers in Washington state will lose their jobs due to the mandate.
Cassie Sauer is the CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association. She’s said previously that between two and five percent of hospital staff in the state could leave the workforce. That represents between 3,000 and 7,500 individuals.
However, Sauer said Monday that estimate could be high.
The vast majority of hospital workers were already in compliance prior to Monday’s deadline. Last week, the hospital association reported about 88 percent of workers were fully vaccinated.
Sauer said Monday that number had increased, but new numbers are not yet available.
About 98 percent of staff at Seattle Children’s staff were fully vaccinated as of Monday.
UW Medicine medical staff were 99 percent vaccinated. However, roughly 220 UW Medicine staff were expected to leave their positions by the end of Monday due to the mandate, according to chief medical officer Dr. Tim Dellit.
“And that’s impactful. It’s impactful for them, it’s impactful for their colleagues,” Dellit said.
Hospital leaders say staff losses are likely to be greatest in rural areas on the east side of the state, and state hospital association leader Cassie Sauer said personnel shortages will lead to curtailed services.
“There’s going to be caps on admissions at some rural hospitals,” Sauer said.
She said some services may potentially be closed, or longer wait times for people seeking non-emergent procedures may be seen.
All hospitals are trying to hire more staff.
— Kate Walters
Most Seattle city employees are in compliance with vaccine mandate, but some departments trail
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan's office announced today that 99 percent of city employees are in compliance with the Covid vaccination mandate. However, some individual departments are further behind.
About seven percent of Seattle Fire Department personnel are not vaccinated or exempt from the mandate, and nine percent of the Seattle Police Department's staff have not provided proof of vaccination.
They'll be prohibited from station work starting Tuesday.
Fire Chief Harold Scoggins says he expects business to go on mostly as usual.
"Our goals are simple, we want to make sure we try to keep a resource in every district, so if there's a medical emergency someone's in route," Scoggins said. "If there's a fire emergency that's generally a larger number of resources, they're still gonna come, they just may be coming from other locations."
Scoggins said they don't want to lose any of their highly trained workers, and he's hoping everyone will step up to get vaccinated.
The Seattle Police department, meanwhile, has made contingency plans. Some higher ranked staff will respond to emergency calls if officers aren't available.
— Paige Browning
Vaccination rates vary among healthcare workers in different parts of the state
Healthcare workers are among the many groups in Washington state who are required to be vaccinated by today. Those who aren't could be out of a job.
Pam Grindley is with the Seattle Indian Health Board, a community health clinic. She said the vaccine was mandatory in her workplace long before the state requirement, and all employees are now vaccinated. But not everyone is seeing the same results.
"Our friends on the other side of the state are, I think, experiencing it a little differently than we are," Grindley said. "They are experiencing a lot more vaccine hesitancy among their staff."
Grindley said overall she's hearing that vaccination rates are high among workers in community health centers.
Hospital leaders say the same is true among hospital staff, with rates increasing as the deadline neared.
However, staffing is tight across the healthcare system and some staff will be lost. That will likely lead to some services being cut back, particularly in rural areas.
— Kate Walters
WSU coach Nick Rolovich fired, per report
Washington State University football coach Nick Rolovich has been terminated, according to a columnist for the Oregonian newspaper.
Rolovich — the state's highest paid employee — had not been vaccinated against Covid-19.
The columnist John Canzano posted on Twitter that Rolovich was terminated for cause, along with other WSU assistant coaches who weren't vaccinated.
Previous reporting indicated that Rolovich was seeking a religious exemption.
Washington State University has not responded to a request for comment.
— Andy Hurst
Unvaccinated Washington state employees face their last day on the job
Monday is the deadline for Washington state employees, healthcare and long-term care workers and those working in the education field to be fully vaccinated. Those who aren’t could be out of a job by day’s end. Some of the state employees who face termination got exemptions, but not a workplace accommodation so they could stay on the payroll.
For more than 30 years, Charles LeBlanc has served the state of Washington. First as a state trooper, rising to the rank of captain. And, since 2017, as Washington’s fire marshal overseeing such things as the state’s fire training academy and enforcing fireworks regulations. But now LeBlanc is about to turn in his badge.
“The 18th [of October] will be my last day at work for the state. The 19th I will walk away without further employment, with no medical or dental coverage for my family,” LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc is among potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of Washington state employees poised to lose their jobs Monday because they didn’t comply with Gov. Jay Inslee’s requirement to get the Covid-19 vaccine. The state doesn’t expect to know the true “separation” number for several days.
Seattle Public Schools cuts more than 100 bus routes in response to driver shortage
Seattle Public Schools has suspended approximately 142 of its bus routes, citing an ongoing driver shortage exacerbated by noncompliance with Governor Inslee's vaccine mandate for state employees. The district uses the third-party contractor First Student, which is also subject to Inslee's vaccine mandate, for bus service.
"Inconsistent bus service is disruptive at many levels and we’re doing our best to make sure that students can get to and from school safely and as close to on time as possible," district officials said in a written statement.
In the meantime, Seattle Public Schools said it is continuing bus service for students receiving special education and disability services who require district-provided transportation, as well as McKinney Vento and foster students, schools that predominantly serve historically underserved students, and schools at interim sites.
Thurston County Judge strikes down court challenge to Inslee's vaccine mandate
Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s vaccine mandate survived an 11th hour court challenge. On Monday morning, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy denied a motion for an injunction to block the mandate from taking effect.
“The record in this case shows that multiple individuals will have significant changes in their life potentially by these proclamations that are at issue, the question before the court though is whether there will be irreparable harm,” Murphy said.
The harm, Murphy ruled, is financial as some unvaccinated workers will be losing their jobs. That can be litigated individually, she said. The lawsuit was brought by hundreds of state employees and others who are affected by the mandate. Last Friday, a federal judge in Seattle also refused to halt the implementation of Inslee’s get-vaccinated-or-get-fired order.
Seattle police and fire departments brace for staff shortages amid vaccine deadline
The Seattle police and fire departments have put contingency plans in place ahead of today's covid vaccination deadline, in anticipation of staff shortages.
Approixmately 88% of Seattle fire employees and 84% of Seattle police officers have had their Covid-19 vaccinations verified, according to the Mayor's Office.
The Seattle Police Department has activated its stage three of its mobilization plan, opening the door for detectives and other non-patrol staff to potentially respond to 911 calls. The Seattle Fire Department has activated its Resource Management Center to monitor call response data in real time.
The Seattle Police officers Guild had been trying to reach an agreement with the city ahead of today's deadline for officers who don't want to get vaccinated. Guild President Mike Solan told KING 5 News that now is not the time to fire officers who don't want the shots.
"Our community is demanding more police officers answer the 911 calls," Solan said. "And... we've already lost close to 350 police officers because of the politicians' political betrayal."
But the Mayor's Office has not backed down from the mandate, telling KING 5 News that Covid is currently the leading cause of death among first responders.
99% of city employees have complied with Seattle's vaccine mandate, Mayor's Office says
May Jenny Durkan's office announced that as of roughly 2:30 p.m., 99% of the city's 11,000 employees have complied with the requirement that they be fully vaccinated by 11:59 p.m. on Monday.
So far, 94% of employees have shown proof of vaccination, 5% have demonstrated exemptions, and 1% — equating to about 150 employees — have yet to show proof of vaccination or exemption. Sixteen Seattle Fire employees and 24 Seattle Police employees have not submitted proof of vaccination or cited an exemption.
University of Washington sees 99% vaccine compliance rate among employees
Of the 31,711 University of Washington employees subject to Governor Inslee's vaccination mandate, less than 1% are on track to lose their jobs by the end of Monday. As of Monday morning, 227 university employees had not complied with the mandate, 148 of them being medical staff.
According to the most recent count, 711 university employees have applied for a medical or religious exemption. Approval has been granted to 385 of those employees, as 26 more await a decision. Three hundred others have had their exemption requests denied.