With an Oct. 18 deadline looming, nearly 90% of Washington state government employees subject to Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate have complied with the order, according to data released Monday.
Of about 62,000 employees, 89.53% had been verified as fully vaccinated as of Oct. 4, the new figures released by the state Office of Financial Management show. That’s up from 68% as of a couple weeks earlier.
With a lag in the data and another week to report, the compliance figures are likely to grow before the deadline, despite protests and vows of defiance by a minority of dissenting employees.
The rates vary somewhat among the largest state agencies. At the Department of Social and Health Services, about 91% employees have been vaccinated.
At the Department of Corrections, more than 90% of headquarters workers were vaccinated, while rates at prisons are a bit lower: about 88% at the Monroe Correctional Complex and 85% at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.
About 89% of Washington State Patrol employees have been fully vaccinated, according to OFM.
The state has received more than 4,800 religious or medical exemption requests. Of those, about 4,200 have been approved.
But workers who receive exemptions can still face loss of their jobs if they can’t be accommodated in a role with minimal public contact. So far, the state has granted accommodations to more than 1,300 employees, while denying 1,475.
The new state data show one of the 61 employees in Inslee’s own office asked for and was granted a religious exemption. But the person was denied an accommodation to continue to work, according to the latest OFM report.
Tara Lee, an Inslee spokesperson, said she did not know the identity of the employee.
“We have not been told. I am told that this person is still going through the HR process so it is unclear if this person will remain in their position,” she wrote in an email.
To be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18, workers needed to receive a final shot by Oct. 4. But in negotiations with unions, the Inslee administration effectively extended the deadline for many state workers, allowing those whose exemption requests were denied to take up to 45 days of leave to get vaccinated.
Inslee, in a statement, said he’s “extremely encouraged” by the rate of vaccination among public employees.
“These high vaccination rates will continue to increase, and union-negotiated impacts will give more time to reconsider their choices as they take unpaid leave. I am so thankful for a state workforce that has chosen the right and best path for themselves, their families and communities and the residents they serve,” he said.
The figures released Monday cover general state government employees, but not the hundreds of thousands of K-12, health care and higher education workers also subject to Inslee’s mandate.