Sunday, September 25, 2022

What You Need to Know About Monday’s COVID Vaccination Deadline in Washington State

The deadline for most government officials, health workers and schools in Washington to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is a few days. When Gov. Jay Inslee issued a massive order this summer, his statement was clear: Show proof of vaccination on or before October 18, or lose your job.

Since then, however, unions have worked to flatten the terms of employment, thousands of workers have applied for release, and the state has provided new extensions for certain employees.

Over the past few months, more and more questions have arisen.

We have collected the most pressing questions and answered them. Here’s what you need to know:

How many government mandated workers are fully vaccinated?

Inslee announced Thursday that more than 90% of Washington state employees have been fully vaccinated.… This is 68% more than a couple of weeks ago.

The State Treasury Office said earlier this week that rates vary between the largest government agencies: 91% among employees in the Department of Human Services and Health; 84% to 91% of Department of Corrections staff by institution; and 89% of the Washington State Patrol.

In terms of hospital workers, a recent study by the Washington State Hospital Association found that about 88% are fully vaccinated. The survey included all hospital workers, but did not cover data from the offices of independent doctors, dentists, military hospitals and some other medical institutions.

The remaining 12% of hospital workers include those who are partially vaccinated, have an approved exemption and accommodation, have applied for or are planning to apply for an exemption that has not yet been reviewed, have not yet provided proof of vaccination, or have decided not to do so. get a vaccination.

It is unclear how many employees at K-12 schools received COVID-19 vaccinations; The FDA has no plans to release statewide compliance data until the end of the month.

What does this mean for already overburdened health systems, and are hospitals and their workers concerned about the loss of staff? What about government agencies and their critical services?

Vaccination rates among government and healthcare workers are quite high. While hospitals do not anticipate losing a large percentage of their workforce due to mandate, health officials say staffing levels remain strained – so even a small number of layoffs or layoffs could pose additional challenges to the health care system.

This week, the state hospital association estimated that 2% to 5% of hospital staff – 3,000 to 7,500 employees – could quit their jobs, with rural Washington hospitals having the greatest impact.

Many Washington health workers are more concerned about long-term shortfalls unrelated to the vaccine mandate, said Jane Hopkins, executive vice president of SEIU 1199 NW, one of the state’s largest health workers’ unions.

“It’s not about the mandate,” she said. “Lack of staff has been a problem for years.”

According to Lacey Fehrenbach, undersecretary of the state health department for COVID-19, the state not associated with vaccine requirements has contracted with ACI Healthcare, the national recruiting agency, to help address persistent labor shortages in hospitals. Government officials are in the process of securing funding for these additional workers through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Vaccination rates among the state’s largest agencies are also high, dispelling the notion that a massive exodus of government officials unwilling to be vaccinated could wreak havoc on government services. However, some prisons with too many lost staff have the potential to curtail educational, religious or drug dependence programs.

School district superintendents also expect to lose “only a small percentage of their staff,” although the state has not conducted any formal surveys, OSPI spokeswoman Katie Payne said. However, this week, Seattle public schools announced the suspension of 142 school bus routes, necessitated by a shortage of national bus drivers and some drivers refusing to get vaccinated.

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The state has explored several options to help counties address current labor shortages, such as increasing the limit on the number of hours retirees can work or potentially speeding up the process for employees to obtain licenses and qualifications as a bus driver.

Many workers have refused vaccinations after receiving permission for religious or medical reasons. Should the public, especially patients visiting hospitals, be concerned about visiting facilities with lower vaccination rates?

If an unvaccinated worker has been granted exemption for religious or medical reasons, his employer should try to arrange housing in his workplace. In most hospitals in Washington, the likelihood of a patient working directly with an unvaccinated healthcare provider will be low, according to SEIU’s Hopkins.

Adaptation could include requiring the unvaccinated worker to undergo frequent coronavirus tests or transferring the worker to a place where they do not provide direct patient care.

Some hospitals have already introduced new rules for unvaccinated patients to protect their safety and the safety of staff. UW Medicine now requires patients who require organ transplants to be fully vaccinated if they do not have a medical exemption. If the transplant patient is not vaccinated, he will be removed from the waiting list.

UW Medicine has required modern vaccinations for all transplant patients for years, and most recently added COVID-19 vaccination to the list.

However, if employers cannot find suitable living conditions, some workers may still lose their jobs.

If I work for a government agency, medical facility, or school and am not fully vaccinated by the governor’s deadline, will I be fired immediately?

Not necessary. Unions across the state continue to negotiate with employers about possible accommodations and extensions, giving many workers about 30 extra days to meet their mandate.

Inslee also extended some unions to 12,500 unrepresented and tax-exempt government employees earlier this month, giving them a little more time to vaccinate. This group includes those who are in management or who work at the request of the head of the agency.

The expansion of union positions is the result of a deal struck in early September between the Inslee administration and the Washington Federation of Civil Servants. Under this agreement, if a government employee’s request for a medical or religious exemption is denied by the government, that employee can use up to 45 days of unpaid or paid leave to vaccinate, according to the deal.

Hospitals and healthcare facilities have agreed on a similar understanding of their employees, including the time frame within which an employee must meet immunization requirements without losing seniority or leave / vacation days.

For example, at UW Medicine, if workers decide not to get vaccinated and leave their jobs, they can take leave or extra time before their official leave date. If workers receive their first dose of vaccine but are not fully vaccinated by October 18, they can take up to 30 days’ unpaid leave to get fully vaccinated – after which they can return to their previous position or vacant position in the same class of work.

The Swedish health service agreed with a similar understanding for its employees. Anyone who misses the deadline and gets fired will be eligible for re-hiring after a full vaccination.

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If workers do not meet the deadline and do not plan to receive immunizations, they will no longer be able to work at their health facility from October 19.

How will the state ensure the fulfillment of the mandate?

Local health departments, law enforcement agencies, the State Department of Health, and the State Department of Labor and Industry may request proof of vaccination from healthcare providers or their staff at any time. If a staff or healthcare professional has not been fully vaccinated or received a residence permit by October 18, they will not be legally allowed to work in their current place of work. Failure to comply is a gross offense. According to the state, violations can also lead to civil enforcement action.

Inslee spokesman Lee said L&I is currently reviewing its enforcement strategy for covered private employers, including healthcare.

Are long-term care providers included in the state’s mandate with regard to health care providers?

The vaccine is essential for employees of 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 have submitted evidence of vaccination that other types of long-term care facilities do not track, according to the Medicaid & Medicaid Service Centers. That figure is 3 percentage points higher than a week earlier and 12 percentage points higher than when Inslee announced the vaccine. In the United States, 69% of workers are vaccinated.

Patricia Hunter, state ombudsman for long-term care, said the increased rate indicated the mandate’s effectiveness.

“We have long supported the requirement to vaccinate healthcare workers in nursing homes,” Hunter said in a statement. “And the numbers prove that the government’s vaccination mandate is aimed at increasing the number of vaccinations, which is important to protect our vulnerable older people, our children and other at-risk groups.”

Students have just returned to face-to-face studies this fall. How will the credentials of their teachers and staff affect them?

All school and higher education institutions, school staff, trainers, bus drivers, school volunteers and others working in school facilities were also ordered to be fully vaccinated by 18 October. The mandate includes higher education staff and contractors as well as certified ones. , licensed and contracted early learning and child care providers.

According to the Inslee office, this recruitment is approximately 363,000 public and private employees. Tribal schools are not included in the vaccination mandate.

The state does not officially track vaccination adherence rates among school workers, but the constant demand for labor in the education world has already led to shortages, cuts and delays, which could be compounded when the immunization deadline expires.

While the Seattle School District does not yet know exactly how many students will be affected by the suspension of more than 140 routes, County spokesman Tim Robinson estimates that about 6,740 of the 18,000 students could lose their regular route.

Guardians in high demand due to stricter cleaning protocols and community nurses also work overtime. And school districts are preparing for a possible resignation prompted by the vaccination mandate.

More information on state mandates is available at Governor.wa.gov/VaccineMandateFAQ.

Reporters Paige Cornwell, Joseph O’Sullivan, Jim Brunner, Monica Velez, and Dalia Buzzaz contributed to this report.

Nation World News Desk
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