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Washington Department of Corrections reports more than 90% of staff fully vaccinated

Department of Corrections officials say more than 90% of its staff have proved they are fully vaccinated and they expect that number to go up before Oct. 18.

SEATTLE — The impact Gov. Jay Inslee's COVID-19 vaccine mandate will have on Washington state prisons is beginning to come into focus. 

More than 90% of Department of Corrections (DOC) employees have verified they've been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to DOC officials on Friday. 

However, 502 employees have still not proven their vaccination status and could face termination on Monday, Oct. 18, under the state's mandate. 

DOC Secretary Cheryl Strange said she expects the number of employees who haven't proved their status to drop come Monday, but if it doesn't, she said not to expect any drastic changes to the prisons. 

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She said the prison system will rely on overtime, move some employees to different facilities and temporarily cut some non-essential programs to handle any shortage of staff members. 

Strange said she knows it could be hard on employees who did get vaccinated.

"We know they’re tired, and we’re eager to have this system of care sort of restored back to normal," said Strange. 

The secretary went on to say she is encouraged by the number of employees who have gotten vaccinated against the virus. 

The state's COVID-19 vaccine mandate requires most state employees, health care workers, K-12 and higher education employees and child care providers to get fully vaccinated or face losing their jobs. The vaccine mandate is currently one of the strictest in the country.

Inslee has said he is also "encouraged" by the number of state employees becoming fully vaccinated, which jumped from just 49.14% in early September to 91.87% as of Oct. 4.