Inslee Announces Indoor Mask Mandate for All, Vaccine Requirement for Educators

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OLYMPIA — Indoor mask mandates are back, and vaccine requirements are expanded to educators, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday.
 
Beginning Aug. 23, everyone — regardless of vaccination status — will be required to wear masks in indoor settings. Some exceptions include office spaces not easily accessible by the public where everyone is vaccinated, in vehicles with no public face-to-face interaction, and small, private indoor gatherings where everyone is vaccinated.
 
The Department of Health also is strongly recommending individuals wear masks in crowded outdoor settings, such as concerts, fairs and farmer’s markets. The expansion follows record-breaking COVID-19 hospitalization rates, according to Inslee’s office. Each of the state’s 35 local health officers also recently recommended masking indoors for everyone.

Inslee also announced Wednesday he was expanding the state’s vaccination requirements, which last week only included state and health care employees.

All employees in K-12 schools, most childcare and early learning centers, and higher education must get vaccinated for COVID-19 by Oct. 18 or they may lose their jobs, Inslee said.

All K-12 educators, school staff, coaches, bus drivers, school volunteers and others working in school facilities must get vaccinated as a condition of employment. The requirement includes public, private and charter schools, according to his office.

The mandate follows “rapidly increasing”  COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the state,  according to Inslee’s office.

There will be no option for regular COVID-19 tests instead of vaccination. 

Last week, Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal sent a letter to Inslee, urging him to include public school employees in the governor’s vaccine mandate for state and health care employees. He said Friday he was “confident” Inslee would follow through with his request.

Reykdal said without vaccine mandates and mask mandates, “keeping schools open will be a challenge.”

He has said he would withhold federal funding to schools if they do not follow the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s guidelines this school year, which includes offering full-time in-person instruction and requiring masks for everyone indoors.

Unions may bargain for time off to receive the vaccine or recover from symptoms, according to Inslee’s office.

There will be exemptions for employees who need medical or religious accommodations.

Additionally, employees in Washington’s higher education institutions and most childcare and early learning providers are required to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18. In higher education, that includes staff, faculty and contractors. For childcare and early learning, it includes licensed, certified and contracted programs, license-exempt programs and contractors. Family, friends and neighbor caregivers are not included in the mandate.

Those who refuse to get vaccinated will be subject to dismissal, according to his office.

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R. Ganowicz

Nope.

Wednesday, August 18