Unvaccinated State Workers in Washington and Massachusetts Face Job Loss


The firing of Washington State University’s head football coach, Nick Rolovich, for refusing to get a Covid vaccine was the most high-profile consequence of several statewide vaccine mandates for government workers that took effect on Monday.

In Washington, Monday was the final day for more than 800,000 workers, including those at state agencies, schools and health care facilities, to prove they had been fully vaccinated against coronavirus. The mandate, issued by Gov. Jay Inslee in August, is among the strictest in the country.

Compliance generally appeared to be high, especially in Seattle, where local media reports said that 99 percent of city employees either were vaccinated or had applied for exemptions. The Washington State Patrol said on Tuesday that 127 employees — a bit less than 6 percent of its work force — had left or been let go because of the mandate. Somewhat more than half of them were sworn officers. “We will miss every one of them,” Chief John R. Batiste said in a statement.

In Massachusetts, nearly 1,600 state executive-branch employees missed the Sunday vaccination deadline, the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Monday. These unvaccinated workers, who do not have the option to submit the regular testing instead of getting vaccinated, now face suspension and the loss of their jobs. Governor Baker does not expect to experience staffing shortages in Massachusetts, the statement said, but some politicians say requiring vaccines will strain an already stressed work force.

The governor’s executive order was unsuccessfully challenged in court by the unions representing state police troopers and state prison guards.

New Jersey’s vaccine mandate for school and state workers also took effect this week and requires employees to provide proof of vaccination or complete a Covid-19 test at least once a week. The state’s next deadline is Nov. 1, when workers at child care facilities will be required to be fully vaccinated or have regular Covid-19 tests administered.

At a news conference on Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy said he didn’t immediately know what percentage of state employees had been vaccinated, but added, “It’s a very high percentage.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago said on Monday that some police officers in the city were no longer receiving pay because they had not complied with requirements to get vaccinated. “The disciplinary process will proceed from there,” she said. “My understanding is it’s a very small number.”

Preliminary data indicates that mandates are working to persuade many holdouts to get vaccinated. In New York, for instance, teachers and health care workers rushed to get the shots just before the state’s mandate took effect, and private companies that issued vaccination requirements have seen widespread compliance.

In several states, officials are taking a wait-and-see approach to penalizing the noncompliant, rather than acting right away.

Mike Faulk, a spokesman for Governor Inslee, said Washington state employees who did not verify their status or get an exemption accommodation by Monday are no longer working, but depending on the contracts and labor agreements covering them, they may be permitted to return to work over the next month either by verifying that they are vaccinated or by obtaining an approved exemption.

In New Jersey, 386 school districts have been granted extensions of the deadline by the state because of delays in getting testing programs set up, officials said.





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