Saturday, November 27, 2021

After the COVID-19 vaccination deadline, most workers in Washington State and Seattle received their vaccinations.

OLYMPIA. During the pandemic, Kim Kinney worked on the Washington Capitol campus while other government employees worked from home.

But with the deadline for 62,000 civil servants to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or lose their jobs on Monday, Kinney is about to lose his position for refusing to get vaccinated.

“I’m very upset that I can say,” Kinney said, adding later, “I hope there are serious lawsuits that compensate for what they did, and I don’t mean cash. I want my damn job. “

As Gov. Jay Inslee’s formal vaccination deadline approached and came to an end on Monday, the vast majority of the state and Seattle employees covered by the order have been vaccinated.

This includes 92% of the 62,000 civil servants that Inslee ordered to be fully vaccinated by October 18. The powers of the governor also extended to school workers, as well as hundreds of thousands of medical workers.

Similar orders were for workers in King County and Seattle, where it was reported Monday that 94% of employees were vaccinated.

Kinney found herself in the minority of civil servants – those who refused the injection to keep their jobs. She joined Washington State University football coach Nick Rolovich, who refused to be vaccinated. Rolovich, the state’s highest paid community worker, earning $ 3.2 million a year, also lost his job on Monday.

According to conservative KTTH talk show host Jason Rantz, the two Washington state patrols have posted clips they subscribe to the last time one officer quits public service, telling Inslee to kiss his ass.

Soldier Eric Gunderson died last month from COVID-19. His family said on Friday that he was not vaccinated, but would probably get vaccinated this fall. He was 38 years old.

In a statement, Inslee said more than 92% of government employees have been tested for vaccinations, and the numbers continue to rise.

“I thank those who took this step in recent months, they showed leadership and trusted science to protect themselves and our state,” the governor said in a prepared speech, adding that 1,934 Washington residents have died from COVID-19 since mid-August.

“Most of these tragic losses could have been prevented if these people had chosen to be vaccinated,” he continued. “I am confident that government services, health care and education and services will continue with minimal disruption.”

Increasing vaccination rates

Inslee’s mandate for vaccines prompted other reluctant workers to get vaccinated, including Sean Pierce.

Pierce is a State Department of Transportation employee who oversees two mechanics in Colville, Stevens County. The department rejected Pierce’s request for a religious exemption and decided to receive a one-time Johnson & Johnson vaccine, he said.

“There is only one of my jobs in Colville,” Pierce said, worried about the expansion of powers in the future, adding, “The next thing you know, it will be a launch vehicle, it will not run out.”

However, recent data have shown that high standards are generally met in and around Seattle.

Seattle’s public schools have 99% of full-time employees vaccinated, according to the county.

The city of Seattle said Monday that 94% of its workers complied with Mayor Jenny Durcan’s vaccination orders. At the Seattle Police Department, 91% of employees, including 90% of sworn officers, received their vaccinations.

In Bellevue, 94% of the 216 firefighters affected by this mandate have provided proof of vaccination, according to city spokesman Brad Harwood.

Meanwhile, of the 116 Kirkland fire department employees, 100 had submitted vaccination documents as of Monday morning, according to spokesman Joy Johnston.

According to Inslee’s order, vaccinations are required for employees at 1,495 long-term care facilities in Washington, DC, accounting for 37% of all COVID-19 deaths in the state. After vaccinations became widely available, the number of cases of coronavirus infection and the number of deaths fell sharply, but they began to rise in late July.

As of October 3, 80% of nursing home workers in Washington DC have provided proof of vaccination, according to Medicaid and Medicaid Services, which do not track other types of long-term care facilities.

As of October 11, King County public transit figures were slightly lower.

The data, the last tally the agency could provide on Monday, showed that 4,001 of the 5,158 employees, or 78%, were confirmed to be vaccinated, spokesman Jeff Switzer said.

Termination notices will be sent after Monday to those who have not confirmed they are vaccinated or posted for religious or medical exemption. Those who do plan to quit smoking can take vacation or sick leave.

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Workers who received their first dose of the two-dose vaccine by Monday will be allowed to stay on condition that they complete the second dose by December 2. If their documents have not yet been processed, Metro employees can continue to work.

And if someone leaves or leaves Metro, they can be reinstated within two years if they get vaccinated and qualify for an affordable job.

On Monday, Switzer said Metro was seeing a “small spike” in canceled flights, but still running at least 99% of scheduled buses.

The political, legal struggle continues

Just as the deadline began, a Thurston County judge dropped the lawsuit filed by hundreds of government officials.

In a recent effort to suspend Inslee’s mandate, Supreme Court Justice Carol Murphy rejected a motion for an interim injunctive relief filed by Washington State medical and patrol officials.

Murphy rejected the employees’ attorney’s arguments that the mandate would violate their constitutional rights and cause irreparable harm to them. Although the petition for an injunction was denied, the lawsuit will continue.

And in a joint statement Monday, leaders of Washington’s Republican minority legislature once again blew up Inslee’s mandate and the looming loss of some civil servants.

“Coercion, intimidation, threats and public condemnation are not tactics that a leader should use against the people,” Rep. J. T. Wilcox of Yelm and Sen. John Brown of Centralia said in a statement. “The Governor’s blatant contempt for those who prefer to lose their jobs rather than infringe on their right to make their own medical decisions is useless.

“He divides the public – separates us and pits people against each other,” they added. “Even unvaccinated medical workers were heroes yesterday. Today they have become villains in the governor’s narrative. “

“Buy yourself some time”

Even after the Monday deadline, some workers will have another chance to get vaccinated before they lose their jobs.

Since Inslee issued mandates in August, a key labor agreement, which was later extended to thousands of unrepresented workers, essentially extended the deadline beyond Monday.

These provisions give some employees – such as Kinney, the custodian who requested an exemption or accommodation from the vaccination mandate – more time to get vaccinated after they have been denied an exemption or accommodation request. Those who start vaccinations late may also get extra time.

The employee of the Department of Corporate Services that oversees the Capitol campus, Kinney made $ 39,800 last year, according to government records.

Kinney said she has never received a vaccine, believes in natural therapies, and has only taken medication a few times in her life.

DES granted her request for a religious exemption from vaccination. The agency, however, rejected a request to allow her to work in a position deemed safe for her and others, Kinney said Monday.

Kinney hasn’t been to work since Wednesday, she said when she learned that her request had been denied.

DES spokesperson Linda Kent wrote in an email that the agency is not discussing specific staffing issues.

“Overall, I can say that DES very diligently and carefully considered each request on a case-by-case basis to determine if the requesting employee could be accommodated,” Kent wrote. “We also looked at vacant funded positions to see if reassignment is possible for each affected employee. As you know, in the absence of suitable housing, the employee will not be able to continue working. “

At least some workers are using their extra time to decide if they will end up getting their shots.

One of them is Jeremy Oliver, a 42-year-old DES employee who deals with heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in government buildings.

Oliver said the agency granted him a religious exemption, but like Kinney, his request for housing was denied last week.

“I wanted to make my own decisions about this,” said Oliver, who said he hoped to have more time to see for himself if the vaccine was safe.

Oliver, who worked in the country for nine years and earned $ 72,400 last year, said he is considering selling some of the assets to pay off loans if he eventually loses his job.

But he’s still pondering it, Oliver said, and has asked DES for additional unpaid leave while he ponders whether to get vaccinated.

“I decided, you know, I’m going to buy some time,” he said. “Because I can still decide to be turned on.”

Seattle Times reporters Paige Cornwell, Jim Brunner, Sarah Grace Taylor, and Mike Lindblom contributed to this article.

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