Democratic presidential candidate and Washington Governor Jay Inslee speaks with reporters at the Io...

Teachers In Washington State Could Be Fired If Not Fully Vaxxed

Gov. Jay Inslee announced that individuals employed with schools, colleges, and childcare facilities will have until Oct. 18 to get vaccinated.

As students across the nation prepare to return back to school, and Covid-19 cases in children continue to rise, there is some anxiety associated with the start of this upcoming school season. But parents in the state of Washington can ease their concern since Washington issued a vaccine mandate for staff at all schools across the state on Wednesday.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Wednesday that all teachers, faculty, coaches, bus drivers, volunteers, and other staff members associated with schools, colleges, and child care facilities across the state will be required to be fully vaccinated. This mandate applies to all staff in all types of schools, including public, charter, and private schools. “More than 95% of Covid hospitalizations we see today are among the unvaccinated,” Inslee said in a press conference, according to KUOW. “The unvaccinated people are those at risk in Washington and those are the people we love and care for. It’s heartbreaking for us to see losing our neighbors, our coworkers, our students to a preventable disease.”

These employees will have until Oct. 18 to be fully vaccinated as school districts in the state re-open for partial in-person and in-person instruction. Exemptions for “genuine medical and religious reasons” will be allowed, according to KUOW, but individuals who refuse to get vaccinated could be terminated.

This is still the “strictest vaccine mandate” for teachers imposed by any state in the nation, according to the New York Times. While cases in Washington are rising, there are more than 470,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the state and nearly 71.5% of the population ages 12 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

A spokeswoman for the Washington Education Association (WEA), the state’s largest union of teachers, told the New York Times on Wednesday that they expected some local chapters to negotiate some of the details surrounding this new requirement. However, the union said in a statement that it encourages everyone to get vaccinated immediately. “By vaccinating staff we we reduce the possibility of infecting those who cannot be vaccinated, including our students who are under 12 years old,” WEA President Larry Delaney said in a statement following Inslee’s announcement, according to the Associated Press.

Inslee also issued a state wide mask mandate on Wednesday, even for those who are fully vaccinated, in indoor, public settings. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that teachers get the Covid-19 vaccine in order to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Yet, the CDC still recommends that everyone in k-12 schools wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status.

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here.