Governor Requires School Employees to be Vaccinated & Expands Statewide Indoors Mask Mandate
Yesterday, August 18, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a vaccination requirement for employees working in K-12 schools, most childcare and early learning centers, and higher education. He also expanded the statewide indoor mask mandate in public places for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status.
These changes are due to rapidly increasing cases and hospitalizations across our state of the highly-contagious Delta COVID variant. Particular concern was expressed for children under 12 who are not yet eligible for the vaccine while schools actively prepare to return to full-time in-person learning, as required by the Governor.
School Employee Vaccine Requirement
K-12 educators, school staff, coaches, bus drivers, substitutes, school volunteers and others working in school facilities will have until October 18 to be fully vaccinated as a condition of employment. This requirement includes public, private and charter schools, colleges and universities.
Just like the vaccination requirement for state employees and private healthcare workers, there is no “test out” option. There are some limited exceptions under law which employees may apply for, including legitimate medical reasons and sincerely held religious beliefs. For more details, read the OSPI FAQ for K-12 School Employees.
If you need to get vaccinated, Snoqualmie Valley Hospital provides free COVID vaccines - either by appointment or through their drive-through clinic, Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. For details and directions, see the SVH Vaccine webpage.
Students aged 12 and up are eligible for COVID vaccine and strongly encouraged to get immunized. In addition to the protections it offers, vaccination eliminates the requirement to quarantine for close contacts who have no symptoms, and provides additional flexibility for student athletes. However, COVID vaccination is not a requirement for students, at this time.
Statewide Mask Mandate
The governor also expanded the existing statewide mask mandate once again, for both unvaccinated and vaccinated people. Effective August 23, individuals age 5 and older are required to wear a mask indoors in public settings, regardless of vaccination status.
Wearing masks at schools was already required for everyone. This mandate extends to most other public places across the state, including restaurants, grocery stores, malls and public-facing offices, for all regardless of vaccination status.
There will be limited exceptions when face coverings won’t be required, such as office spaces not easily accessible to the public where individuals are vaccinated, and when working alone indoors or in a vehicle with no public face-to-face interaction. Small, private indoor gatherings where all attendees are vaccinated are also exempt. Some exceptions are also made for athletes when actively participating in certain sports competitions and practices.
While not required, the Department of Health also strongly recommends individuals, especially those unvaccinated, to wear masks in crowded outdoor settings such as outdoor concerts, fairs, farmers markets and sporting events.