Monday, November 29, 2021
Nov. 29, 2021

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Washington State Patrol: 67 troopers leave jobs due to vaccine mandate


OLYMPIA — The Washington State Patrol said Tuesday that 127 employees, including 67 troopers, have left the agency due to the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for state employees.

Monday was the deadline for thousands of workers in Washington to prove they’ve been fully vaccinated in order to keep their jobs. The mandate – issued by Gov. Jay Inslee in August – applies to most state workers, long-term care employees, and teachers and staff at the state’s schools, including the state’s colleges and universities. The only opt-out was a medical or religious exemption, though the exemption only ensured continued employment if a job accommodation was made.

Patrol officials said that 74 commissioned officers — 67 troopers, six sergeants and one captain — and 53 civil servants have “separated from employment.” It was not immediately known how many were fired and how many resigned. The agency employs approximately 2,200 people across the state.

“We will miss every one of them,” Chief John Batiste said in a statement.

Patrol officials said that the state will review staffing impacts and move resources as needed. They also noted that they would be recruiting for three new academy classes in the coming months.

Washington’s vaccine mandate is believed to be among the strictest in the nation and covers more than 800,000 workers.

Local Angle

The Washington State Patrol’s District 5, which includes Clark County, had the largest number of separated commissioned staff of any region in the state.

The State Patrol reported Friday the separation of 14 commissioned staff members in District 5, which also includes Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis and Skamania counties.

More detailed information wasn’t provided.

Statewide, 74 commissioned staffers were separated regarding the vaccine mandate, the State Patrol reported. The next largest group of separations occurred in District 1, which includes Pierce and Thurston counties, with 11.

—Mark Bowder

About 61,000 are employees of the 24 state agencies that are part of Inslee’s executive cabinet, including the departments of corrections, transportation and social and health services, and the Washington State Patrol. Vaccination is also now a requirement for any contractor wanting to do work with the state.

Of the remainder of employees covered by the mandate, about 400,000 are health care workers, 155,000 are in K-12, 118,000 work in childcare and early learning, and 90,000 are in higher education.

Recent state numbers show that a vast majority of employees covered by the mandate have been vaccinated, but officials said the total figure won’t be known for days or weeks as agencies work through exemption and job accommodation requests and as some workers may have provided verification in the final hours before the deadline.

“I am confident that state services, health care and educational instruction and services will continue with minimal disruption,” Inslee said in a written statement Monday night.

Opponents of the mandate have staged protests and filed lawsuits, but a Thurston County judge on Monday was the latest to deny an effort by dozens of public sector employees who sued to block the mandate.

In a joint statement, Republicans Sen. John Braun and Rep. J.T. Wilcox said that Inslee “underestimates the potential impact of his actions.”

“Coercion, intimidation, threats and public shaming are not tactics a leader should be using against the people,” the wrote Monday. “The governor’s obvious disdain for those who are choosing to lose their jobs rather than compromise their right to make their own medical decisions is unhelpful.”

As of this week, more than 78% of people age 12 and older have initiated vaccination in Washington state and 72% are fully vaccinated.