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Inslee encouraged by 'sky-high' vaccination rates among Washington employees

Approximately 92% of state workers have verified their COVID-19 vaccination status, but nearly 5,000 have not provided proof with just days left before the mandate.

TUMWATER, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he is “encouraged” by the state's employee vaccination rate that’s near 92%, a number that is expected to climb.

Under the governor’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, more than 60,000 state employees have until Monday, Oct. 18, to provide employers with proof of vaccination.

According the latest figures reported by the state’s Office of Financial Management, 91.87% of employees who need to be vaccinated to keep their jobs were verified as fully vaccinated on Oct. 4. That number increased from just 49.14% of employees verifying vaccination as of Sept. 6.

“The sky-high vaccination rates we’re seeing should settle any concerns. There will not be massive disruptions in state services,” Inslee said in a written statement.

But with nearly 5,000 state employees who have not provided proof of their vaccination status, state agencies are still making plans to deal with staff shortages next week.

If the Department of Veterans Affairs is short-staffed, new admissions to veteran homes might be suspended, and some veterans might have to be placed in nursing homes, according to documents released by the department.

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The vaccination rate at the Washington Veterans Home in Bremerton is 88%, it’s 69% at the Washington Soldiers Home in Orting, according to the department.

The Department of Corrections (DOC), where the vaccination rate at the state penitentiary in Walla Walla is 85%, is “anticipating possible reduction in staffing and areas of limited operations,” according to DOC documents.

Listed as a concern in DOC’s “Staffing Contingency Planning” paperwork, the “number of confirmed vaccinated medical staff.”

State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler does not think state agencies will be disrupted by staff shortages.

“I think there will be people presenting on Monday their proof of vaccination,” said Kreidler.

His employees were not required to get vaccinated under Inslee’s mandate, but Kreidler implemented a similar rule for his employees.

“We’re at 97%,” said Kreidler, who expected to lose as many as seven of his 230 employees because of the mandate. Kreidler said human resource staffers across state government are working on contingency plans that he said won’t likely be needed.

“It’s pretty disruptive. If you’re vaccinated, walk in, give your card. Come on, save the taxpayers some money,” said Kreidler.

He said one of his employees who got vaccinated in March informed the human resources department this Monday. Kreidler said state employees are trying to make a point, to act like rebels.

“Of course, anybody who gives it a second look will roll their eyes and say that isn’t much of a rebellion,” said Kreidler.