Governor Inslee Announces the Return of the Indoor Mask Mandate and Covid Vaccine Requirement for all Educators and School Staff

On August 18th, Governor Inslee announced a vaccine mandate for ALL Washington State public, private educators and school staff at a press conference. These educators must be fully vaccinated by October 18th.  Exemptions will be allowed for legitimate medical reasons or genuine religious beliefs. Those who refuse to get vaccinated could be terminated.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal said, “this is not Alpha; this is Delta.” Reykdal stated he had strongly encouraged Inslee to issue this executive order requiring all employees working in public K–12 schools to get their vaccination against COVID-19 as a condition of employment, consistent with the order he issued on August 9 for state employees and licensed healthcare providers.

Said Reykdal in a statement, “I want to be clear: This order should not delay or impact our return to full-time, in-person learning this fall. Employees who are not yet vaccinated will have time to do so while still working and serving students. In addition, the order is specific to school employees and is not related to the vaccination of students.”

Childcare providers affected by the requirement include:

  • Licensed, certified and contracted early learning and childcare programs
  • License-exempt early learning, childcare and youth-development programs
  • Contractors such as coaches, volunteers, trainers and bus drivers

Tribal schools are not required to follow the mandate.

Governor Jay Inslee also announced the return of the statewide indoor mask mandate, which starts Monday, August 23rd. All vaccinated, and unvaccinated people must wear masks indoors and are strongly urged to wear masks at large outdoor settings.

According to the Secretary of Health, Umair A. Shah (MD MPH), even though Washington State is one of the most vaccinated states, there are still 2 million people over the age of twelve who still have not started their vaccine series.

“In Washington, we continue to see an increase of cases, hospitalizations,” said Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Secretary of Health. “Vaccines are safe and effective, but they take time to work. As our vaccination efforts continue, we are asking the public to take additional protections to help slow the spread of COVID in communities. Wearing a mask helps to protect yourself and each other.”

The vast majority of cases in this fifth Covid-19 wave are from the Delta Variant. Even though 72% of those eligible are vaccinated, Washington broke the previous record for COVID hospitalizations set in September.

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