New Washington secretary of state orders staffers to be vaccinated
The new Washington secretary of state announced during a virtual briefing that his staff would either need to be vaccinated or seek an approved exemption by Feb. 25, Northwest News Network reported on Tuesday.
Exemptions would be evaluated on an individual case basis. Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs (D) said the requirement will ensure the safety of his employees and the greater public.
“I am confident that this will help protect the employees of this office, as well as the citizens that we serve,” Hobbs said, according to Northwest News Network.
The policy is a reversal from his predecessor, Kim Wyman (R), who did not implement a vaccine mandate, making hers the only statewide office to not have one. The measure targets an estimated 30 percent of staffers believed to be unvaccinated, according to the news outlet.
The Washington secretary of state also noted that a booster requirement was still on the table for the future, but he noted that boosters would not be required for employees for now.
The other eight Washington statewide elected officials and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) have already implemented vaccine mandates, the news outlet noted.
The announcement also coincides with a steep rise in COVID-19 cases in the state, including over 33,000 new infections that were reported on Monday, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cases largely remained in the low thousands in November and at least the first half of December before the omicron variant, first discovered in South Africa, began to take hold in the U.S.
While the omicron variant has been recognized as highly transmissible, early research and initial data suggest that the strain may not cause as severe damage to the lungs compared to the delta variant.
President Biden’s chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said last month that omicron was likely less severe than delta for people who were already vaccinated.
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