SEATTLE, Wash — Seattle's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city workers is now in effect.
City employees, including police officers and firefighters, had until 11:59 p.m. Monday to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or file paperwork to be exempt from the order.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office said Monday that 98% of the city’s first responders either filed vaccine verification or exemption forms.
As of 6:30 p.m. Monday, Seattle reported 99% of its total employees had been vaccinated or filed paperwork to be exempt from the mandate.
Only six Seattle Police Department (SPD) employees and 11 Seattle Fire Department (SFD) employees had not submitted proof of vaccination or filed exemption paperwork, as of Tuesday at midnight.
"What we want as a city is, we want to have our valued employees, but we need for public health for them to be vaccinated," said Durkan.
According to the mayor’s office, 6% of SFD employees had submitted vaccine mandate exemptions by Monday evening. As of Tuesday, 103 SPD sworn and civilian employees have submitted exemption requests.
"I'm not going to make any pre-judgments until we see what the lay of the land is,” said Durkan. “If people make the choice that they don't want to keep their jobs because they don't want to be vaccinated, they'll have that choice. I hope they don't make it."
Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins said although the department will lose some firefighters over the vaccine mandate, all calls will be responded to and the many technical teams will continue service as well.
Scoggins said response times to certain calls may vary by a minute or two if there is a drastic change in staffing. He said the department, on average, responds to between 250 and 260 calls a day.
"We may lose some folks, but we're confident we're going to be able to get a unit out the door and respond," said Scoggins. "We have amazing people that serve the community each and every day, and they don't think about themselves when they do that, and that's important."
Durkan said if a Seattle first responder is unvaccinated but filed their request for an exemption by the deadline, they could report for work while their exemption status is pending.
Below is a breakdown of vaccine mandate data as of 6:30 p.m. Monday from the mayor’s office:
- 94% vaccinated
- 5% exemptions
- 1% not submitted (134 employees)
- 93% vaccinated
- 6% exemptions
- 1% not submitted (11 employees)
For the six SPD employees that have not submitted vaccination forms or exemption requests, the separation process has begun. They will be given a Loudermill hearing where they will be able to state their case for why the department should not terminate their employment.
The 103 employees with exemption requests pending will be using their own accrued time off, according to SPD, and the decision on whether or when they will be allowed to return to work will be made in the coming weeks.
As for staffing, patrol staffing will be augmented with officers from the Community Response Group first before other non-patrol sworn workers are assigned to patrol city streets.
"We will continue to respond to emergency situations. We will continue to investigate crimes. We will continue to work to keep the City of Seattle safe," SPD said in a statement. "We at the Seattle Police Department know we are public servants. We swore an oath to protect and serve our community and each other, and we take that oath very seriously. We are committed to helping others."