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Washington governor mandates vaccines for state, healthcare workers

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Washington governor mandates vaccines for state, healthcare workers
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday mandated that state employees and healthcare workers in nursing homes and similar facilities get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued an order Monday requiring state employees and hundreds of thousands of private healthcare workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The order gives affected workers until Oct. 18 to show proof of full vaccination or "be subject to dismissal from employment" for failing to meet legal job qualifications.

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"It is the mission of public servants and those providing health care to serve our fellow Washingtonians. These workers live in every community in our state, working together and with the public every day to deliver services," Inslee said. "We have a duty to protect them from the virus, they have the right to be protected, and the communities they serve and live in deserve protection as well."

The mandate applies to agencies under the government's control as well as about 400,000 private-sector healthcare workers in nursing homes, adult family homes, assisted living and residential treatment facilities.

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They do not apply to K-12 schools or colleges and universities, which are free to implement their own requirements. Exemptions will be provided for religious or medical reasons but the state will not allow workers to opt out due to political or philosophical objections.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine announced similar mandates for city and county employees alongside Inslee on Monday.

The U.S. Military on Monday also announced plans to require vaccination for troops, while President Joe Biden late last month issued a requirement for federal workers to get vaccinated and New York and New Jersey earlier this month mandated vaccines for key workers.

RELATED Canada reopens border for fully vaccinated Americans with negative COVID-19 test

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that 50.2% of all Americans are fully vaccinated, including 61.1% of adults, while 58.8% of the total population and 71.1% of adults have received at least one dose.

The requirements come as the highly infectious Delta variant accounts for more than 80% of new infections and the seven-day moving case average was at 97,399 new cases as of Sunday, according to the CDC.

Amid the rising cases, Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital in Houston reported that its intensive care unit is at 100% capacity Monday, with 63% of those patients diagnosed with COVID-19.

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"We are not talking about a crisis a week, 10 days, 14 days from now. We are in crisis mode today," said Esmaeil Porsa, president and CEO of Harris Health System.

Despite the COVID-19 surge, including among children, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order barring schools from requiring students to wear masks, prompting pushback from some districts.

The Dallas Independent School District announced that as of Tuesday it will require all staff, students and visitors to wear masks on district property, ahead of the start of the school year on Aug. 16.

"We're in a situation that has gotten significantly more urgent," Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said during a press conference Monday morning.

In Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a similar order, school districts in Leon and Alachua Counties announced they will require students to wear masks unless parents can provide a medical reason for an exemption.

"If something happened and things went sideways for us this week and next week as we started school, and heaven forbid we lost a child to this virus, I can't just simply blame the governor of the state," said Leon County superintendent Rocky Hanna.

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