State Watch

Washington state requiring all teachers, school staff to be vaccinated

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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced new COVID-19 mitigation measures on Wednesday, including a vaccination requirement for all teachers and school staff and a statewide mask mandate for all individuals, even those who are fully inoculated.

All employees working in K-12 schools — including teachers, school staff, bus drivers, volunteers and others working in education facilities — must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18 “as a condition of employment,” according to a statement from Inslee.

The policy includes public, private and charter schools.

Inslee also announced a vaccine requirement for most child care and early learning providers who work with children from multiple households.

He noted, however, that FFN care, which refers to supervision from family, friends and neighbors, is not included in the new mandate.

“It has been a long pandemic, and our students and teachers have borne their own unique burdens throughout,” Inslee said in a separate statement.

“This virus is increasingly impacting young people, and those under the age of 12 still can’t get the vaccine for themselves. We won’t gamble with the health of our children, our educators and school staff, nor the health of the communities they serve,” he added.

The governor also rolled out a new statewide mask mandate, effective Aug. 23, that will include vaccinated individuals in indoor settings. The policy will apply to most public places in the state, including restaurants, grocery stores, malls and some offices.

Office spaces that are not easily accessible to the public in which vaccinated individuals work and small, private indoor gatherings where attendees are inoculated, however, are among the locations exempt from the mandate.

Inslee said he decided to expand the existing mask policy as the virus surges in his state. The entire country is currently seeing a spike in COVID-19 infections, largely driven by the highly infectious delta variant.

He said Washington recently broke the previous record for COVID-19 hospitalizations, which was set in December. He also noted that every county in the state is labeled substantial or high transmission in accordance with guidance released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Cases in Washington state have been on the rise since early July, surging from an average of 500 daily new cases to more than 2,000, according to the CDC.

“We have seen over the last year how widespread masking also saves lives by reducing infection,” Inslee said.

“I know this will frustrate some vaccinated folks who thought they wouldn’t have to do this anymore. There are not enough people vaccinated. The result is the explosive growth of a much more infectious strain, the Delta variant, and its increasingly concerns impacts on people of all ages,” he added.

He also said that while not required, the state Department of Health “strongly recommends” that people wear face coverings in crowded outdoor settings.

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