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A look at who's exempt from Washington’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Washington’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate applies to thousands of employees across the state, but there are some exemptions.

SEATTLE — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate went into effect Monday.

The mandate requires most state employees, health care workers and school employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18, 2021, or risk losing their jobs.

The mandate is currently one of the strictest in the country impacting thousands of workers. Employees can apply for a medical or religious exemption but there is no testing option, or a philosophical statement exemption option like it has for other required vaccines.

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According to Inslee’s office, the proclamation “does not cover separately elected officials or boards and commissions, but those governmental bodies are encouraged to adopt a similar approach.” In August, King County and the city of Seattle did just that and announced it would require all executive branch employees – including the assessor, elections and sheriff’s offices – to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18.

Below is a look at who is and isn't included in the state’s vaccine mandate:

Firefighters, police officers and jail staff 

Some first responders are included in the vaccine mandate, but it depends on the position.

Firefighters

According to Inslee’s office, firefighters are included in the mandate if they are licensed as an EMT or paramedic by the state or “whenever performing medical functions in their official course of duty.”

Because fire stations are not considered health care settings, administrative staff at fire stations are not included in the mandate. Volunteer firefighters who only respond to emergency calls and do not perform medical services are also not included in the mandate.

Credentialed firefighters who do not practice “as a function of their position or employment contract” are also exempt from the mandate because they do not meet the definition of a health care provider, according to Inslee’s office.

RELATED: Seattle Fire expects to lose staff over COVID-19 vaccine mandate

However, Seattle Fire employees are required to be vaccinated or apply for a medical or religious exemption by Oct. 18 after King County Executive Dow Constantine handed down a mandate in early August.

As of 10 a.m. Monday, the Seattle mayor’s office reported 93% of Seattle Fire employees were vaccinated and 6% applied for exemptions. Only 16 individuals, which is about 1%, had not submitted vaccination status or applied for an exemption.

Police officers

Police officers are not considered health care providers and are not included in the state mandate.

However, law enforcement staff may be included in the mandate “based on employment with a covered entity such as an institution of higher education or the Washington State Patrol.”

Washington State Patrol troopers are considered state employees and included in the mandate.

In Seattle and King County, Seattle Police Department and King County Sheriff's Office employees fall under the local vaccine mandate.

Only 24 Seattle police employees had not submitted vaccination status or applied for an exemption by Monday. The mayor’s office said 91% of Seattle police employees were vaccinated and 7% applied for an exemption.

RELATED: Seattle Police Officers Guild president says now is not the time to force a vaccine mandate

However, local law enforcement in other counties don't fall under this jurisdiction. For example, the Pierce County Sheriff's Department is not requiring employees to get vaccinated, because the county does not have a vaccine mandate like King County.

Jail staff

According to Inslee’s office, county and municipal jail staff are included in the mandate if they work in the medical treatment area and are a licensed health care provider.

Jail employees whose primary duties do not include health care are not included in the state mandate.

More than 90% of Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) employees have verified they've been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, DOC officials said Friday. However, 502 employees have still not proven their vaccination status and could face termination on Monday, Oct. 18, under the state's mandate.

Click here to read more.

Contractors

According to Inslee’s office, contractors of state entities are “largely included” in the mandate. This includes contractors working onsite at state agencies, contractors working in a “health care setting” and contractors working in educational settings “where students or people receiving services are present.”

RELATED: At-home nurses contracted by Washington state do not have to get COVID-19 vaccine

However, Inslee’s office said the following contractors are not included in the mandate:

  • Workers who are present at a site for only a short period of time and have a fleeting physical presence with others.
  • Recipients of funds distributed by an executive cabinet state agency, but where work is performed at a different physical location.
  • Work performed on the outside of a health care setting, including exterior maintenance, and work constructing a new health care setting not yet put into active use, provided it is cordoned off from the other areas of the health care setting that are in active use.
  • Work performed at a school or institution of higher education in a location removed from student instruction or services.

Click here to see more.

Federal employees and contractors

Federal employees and contractors performing health care services in Washington are included in Inslee’s vaccine mandate.

According to Inslee’s office, the vaccine mandate also applies to federal employees and contractors working on federal property in Washington state.

Click here to read about COVID-19 vaccine exemptions and accommodations.

According to the Washington State Department of Health, 77.6% of eligible Washingtonians received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 71.4% are fully vaccinated as of Oct. 11.

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