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.”
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.