Governor announces tough Covid-19 mandates

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In an effort to beat back the Covid-19 Delta variant, Washington state governor Jay Inslee announced some of the toughest mandates in the country on August 18. As of October 18, K-12 educators, school staff, coaches, bus drivers, school volunteers and others working in school facilities will need to be fully vaccinated as a condition of employment.

In order to meet the definition of “fully vaccinated” (eg. two weeks after the last dose), affected individuals will need to begin a two-dose regimen no later than September 6 for the Moderna vaccine, September 13 for the Pfizer option and October 4 for the Johnson & Johnson's one-dose vaccine. The requirement applies to all 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.

There is no testing option that would allow individuals to forgo vaccinations. On August 9, Inslee announced a similar mandate for most state employees, on-site contractors and volunteers as a condition of employment. Individuals with legitimate medical reasons or sincerely held religious beliefs will be exempt; the exemptions do not include personal or philosophical objections. The mandate applies to state workers regardless of teleworking status.

Governor Inslee also announced that the existing statewide indoor mask mandate would be expanded to include vaccinated individuals, effective Monday, August 23. According to the governor’s office, every county in the state currently exceeds the CDC’s definition of substantial or high transmission rates and the state recently broke the record for Covid-19 hospitalizations set last December.

The mask mandate will apply to most all public places across the state, including restaurants, grocery stores, malls and public-facing offices, regardless of vaccination status.

There will be limited exceptions when face coverings won’t be required, such as office spaces not easily accessible to the public where individuals are vaccinated, and when working alone indoors or in a vehicle with no public face-to-face interaction. Small, private indoor gatherings where all attendees are vaccinated are also exempt.

“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 increasing impacts on people of all ages.”

Effective immediately, the Point Roberts Library has instituted an inside mask policy for all patrons, regardless of their vaccination status.

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