OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will keep a COVID-19 testing option in the federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate, he announced in a press conference Wednesday.
The federal mandate passed down by the Biden Administration requires employers with more than 100 employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. The mandate was set to take effect nationwide on Jan. 4, but is currently working its way through the court system following dozens of lawsuits.
Previously, the state discussed eliminating the weekly COVID-19 testing option, meaning employees covered under the federal mandate would have to get vaccinated or lose their jobs, similar to Washington's mandate for state, health care and education workers. The state found periodic COVID-19 testing was not efficient enough to reduce COVID-19 transmission in the workplace to serve as an alternative to vaccination.
However, the governor has instead opted to mirror the criteria published by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), except where changes may be required to comply with state law, according to the governor's office.
"We thought that it was appropriate to in some effect honor the federal decision to have consistency with the federal government and that's generally the direction we're going," Inslee said.
The federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate will apply to 84 million workers across the country should it take effect in the new year. Businesses found violating the mandate could be fined up to $13,653 for each violation.
Whether or not the federal mandate will go into effect is currently in question. Recently the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a stay of the mandate, calling it "staggeringly overbroad," saying it failed to account for the different levels of risk faced by workers in different workplace settings. The court ruled OSHA may not implement the mandate unless another court overturns the ruling.