Vaccination mandates for healthcare workers, state employees

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are rising in Washington due to the spread of the delta variant, corresponding with increasing requirements for healthcare workers and other people to be vaccinated against the virus.

Statewide, an average of 1,500 new cases per day were reported during the four days leading up to Aug. 3, and the number of people (600) hospitalized with COVID was the highest so far in 2021, according to the state Department of Health.

In Pierce County, 297 cases were confirmed on Aug. 8.

The highly contagious delta variant, a more transmissible strain of the virus, is driving the increase of COVID-19 cases.

Health officials urged non-vaccinated people to get the COVID vaccine. They noted that while no vaccines are 100 percent effective, COVID-19 vaccines provide strong protection against variants, prevent severe illness and hospitalization, and lower the risk of death. More than 94% of all cases, deaths, and hospitalizations in Washingtonians 12 years of age and older due to COVID-19 can be attributed to people who weren’t fully vaccinated, said Dr. Umair A. Shah, the state secretary of health.

Governor Jay Inslee announced Aug. 9 that most state employees and workers in private healthcare and long-term care settings have until Oct. 18 to be fully vaccinated.

“We have a duty to protect them from the virus, they have the right to be protected, and the communities they serve and live in deserve protection, as well,” Inslee said.

The governor made the announcement during a press conference at Kaiser Permanente in Seattle, one of the large healthcare organizations in Washington that have mandated vaccinations for their employees. MultiCare Health System, Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, and Swedish Health Services have done the same.