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Dec. 5, 2021

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Newhouse takes on Biden COVID vaccine mandate for Hanford. Alternative proposed

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“Federal employees who have opted not to receive the vaccine because they have natural immunity developed after recovering from the virus do not deserve to be fired,” Newhouse said in a statement Tuesday after introduction the legislation.

President Biden has ordered all federal workers to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 22 and all workers on federal contractors be be vaccinated by Dec. 8.

They may apply for an exemption on medical or religious grounds, but job accommodations for those with an exemption may only be made if the exemption is legally required.

The federal vaccine mandate applies to about 11,000 workers at the Hanford nuclear reservation near Richland in Eastern Washington.

“President Biden’s overreaching mandate has severe ramifications for communities across the country, especially for communities like Central Washington who make up a large part of the federal workforce,” Newhouse said.

His bill could provide them with a science-based exception to the vaccine mandate, eliminating the need for workers to choose between employment and vaccination, he said.

Newhouse had COVID-19 in November 2020.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that a positive antibody test result shows you may have antibodies from a previous infection or from vaccination for the virus that causes COVID-19 that could protect against the disease.

“But getting vaccinated, even if you have already had COVID-19, can help your body make more of these antibodies,” the CDC said on its website.

Support for Newhouse bill

An official with the pipefitters union Local 598 and the Central Washington Business Trades Council, which both represent Hanford workers, said he supported the proposed bill.

“ For our members, becoming vaccinated is a personal choice between them and their families, their doctor and their faith,” said Nickolas Bumpaous. “The narrow provisions required under this current executive order places our members between that intimate personal choice and their ability to earn a living for their families.”

The unions support vaccination but safe alternatives are needed to the federal vaccine mandate to protect the health and safety of workplaces and also the individual liberties of union members, he said.

“Congressman Newhouse’s legislation will ensure our members have access to the personal options and respect they deserve,” he said.

He is the assistant business manager of Plumbers and steamfitters Local 598 and the president of the Central Washington Building Trades Council.

The National Electrical Contractor Association also supports the bill.

“While we encourage our workforce to get vaccinated, it simply is not practical to impose expansive ‘one size fits all’ programmatic mandates based on the state of the pandemic,” it said in a statement released by Newhouse’s staff.

“(W)e strongly urge the acknowledgment of infection-acquired immunity in addition to vaccine-acquired immunity,” it said.

DOE has not released information on how many Hanford site workers are vaccinated against COVID-19.

COVID mandate opposition

Newhouse filed the bill as the Silent Majority Foundation is considering filing a class action lawsuit to halt the federal vaccine mandate for Hanford site workers.

The foundation already is backing a lawsuit against Gov. Jay Inslee over the Washington state COVID-19 vaccine mandate, with Jeffrey Johnson, an unvaccinated prison guard at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell, as the named plaintiff.

Pete Serrano, a former Department of Energy attorney and Pasco city councilman, is a director and lead attorney for the Silent Majority Foundation.

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