Governor Inslee announces new masking and vaccination requirements
Governor Inslee announces new masking and vaccination requirements

With cas­es of COVID-19 con­tin­u­ing to mount in Wash­ing­ton State and the Pacif­ic North­west, large­ly dri­ven by the refusal of a sig­nif­i­cant per­cent­age of the pop­u­la­tion to get vac­ci­nat­ed, Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee today took action to pro­tect lives and liveli­hoods, requir­ing that all Wash­ing­to­ni­ans wear masks in shared indoor spaces by issu­ing a new emer­gency proclamation.

“We have seen over the last year how wide­spread mask­ing also saves lives by reduc­ing infec­tion,” Inslee said. “I know this will frus­trate some vac­ci­nat­ed folks who thought they wouldn’t have to do this any­more. There are not enough peo­ple vac­ci­nat­ed. The result is the explo­sive growth of a much more infec­tious strain, the Delta vari­ant, and its increas­ing­ly con­cerns impacts on peo­ple of all ages.”

In addi­tion to requir­ing masks in shared indoor spaces, the Depart­ment of Health is also rec­om­mend­ing that masks be worn in crowd­ed out­door spaces.

NPI is fol­low­ing this guid­ance for its upcom­ing Eigh­teenth Anniver­sary Pic­nic this Sun­day (an out­doors event) and had actu­al­ly been plan­ning on requir­ing mask­ing before the new guid­ance was devel­oped. In our view, relax­ing the mask­ing guid­ance (which start­ed at the fed­er­al lev­el with an extreme­ly mis­guid­ed CDC deci­sion) was a seri­ous mis­take. We knew COVID-19’s delta vari­ant was com­ing down the pike months ago, and we could have been bet­ter pre­pared for it.

Gov­er­nor Inslee also announced today, with Super­in­ten­dent of Pub­lic Instruc­tion Chris Reyk­dal by his side, that all edu­ca­tors need to be vac­ci­nat­ed. This includes not only pub­lic school­teach­ers, but teach­ers in pri­vate schools as well, plus vol­un­teers, coach­es, sup­port staff, bus dri­vers, and admin­is­tra­tive staff.

“K‑12 edu­ca­tors, school staff, coach­es, bus dri­vers, school vol­un­teers and oth­ers work­ing in school facil­i­ties will have until Octo­ber 18th to be ful­ly vac­ci­nat­ed as a con­di­tion of employ­ment,” Inslee’s office announced. “The require­ment includes pub­lic, pri­vate and char­ter schools, and comes as schools across the state pre­pare to return for the 2021–2022 school year amid rapid­ly increas­ing case and hos­pi­tal­iza­tion num­bers. This does not impact stu­dents, regard­less of age.”

“As our school build­ings reopen this fall for in-per­son learn­ing, vac­ci­na­tion of our school employ­ees will be a key mit­i­ga­tion mea­sure to pro­tect the health and safe­ty of our stu­dents, staff, and fam­i­lies,” explained Super­in­ten­dent of Pub­lic Instruc­tion Chris Reyk­dal, the state’s chief edu­ca­tion admin­is­tra­tor, who was reelect­ed last autumn along with Inslee. “Our abil­i­ty to main­tain con­tin­ued in-per­son learn­ing with­out major COVID-relat­ed dis­rup­tions will depend on low virus trans­mis­sion with­in our schools. I appre­ci­ate the governor’s lead­er­ship in tak­ing this impor­tant step in the fight against the spread of this virus.”

Gov­er­nor Inslee’s press con­fer­ence can be watched in its entire­ty right here.

Vac­ci­na­tion is one of three main defens­es that are known to work against COVID-19, with the oth­ers being phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing and mask­ing, and is the most effec­tive of the three. How­ev­er, as men­tioned, many Wash­ing­to­ni­ans have still not received one of the safe and effec­tive COVID-19 vac­cines, despite months of wide­spread avail­abil­i­ty, coax­ing on the part of elect­ed lead­ers and pub­lic health offi­cials, var­i­ous incen­tive gim­micks, and grim head­lines about the delta variant.

So states like Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon are tak­ing the next step and mov­ing to man­dates. If peo­ple who have cho­sen the noble field of edu­ca­tion decline to choose to pro­tect them­selves and oth­ers pri­or to com­ing into work, then they’ll either have to choose anoth­er career or get vaccinated.

Inslee’s order encom­pass­es col­lege and uni­ver­si­ty fac­ul­ty and employ­ees, which means that Wash­ing­ton State Uni­ver­si­ty coach Nick Rolovich may soon be required to get vac­ci­nat­ed or else face ter­mi­na­tion. Inslee’s order pro­vides excep­tions only for med­ical or reli­gious rea­sons; there is no “per­son­al exemp­tion” avail­able to be abused by peo­ple who sim­ply don’t want to get vaccinated.

The unvac­ci­nat­ed pop­u­la­tion are the virus’ best friends and will increas­ing­ly find them­selves unwel­come in a grow­ing list of places if they con­tin­ue to stub­born­ly refuse the out­stand­ing pro­tec­tion from COVID-19 that the vac­cines offer.

Proof of vac­ci­na­tion is like­ly to be a con­di­tion of entry at Seat­tle Krak­en games, accord­ing to report­ing by The Seat­tle Times’ Geoff Bak­er. The Eagles are also mak­ing vac­ci­na­tion a require­ment for their upcom­ing Seat­tle con­cert, and cruise lines have been requir­ing pas­sen­gers to be vac­ci­nat­ed in order to trav­el onboard to des­ti­na­tions like Alas­ka, the Bahamas, or Belize. Cana­di­an author­i­ties are also requir­ing Amer­i­cans who wish to trav­el to Cana­da to present proof of vaccination.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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One reply on “Governor Inslee reimposes statewide mask mandate, adds vaccine mandate for educators”

  1. Many peo­ple are look­ing for mean­ing­ful ways to nav­i­gate the chaos, pro­tect them­selves and fam­i­ly, so please share. TY.

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