Aug 18, 2021 - Health

Washington state announces strictest school vaccine mandate in U.S.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and other leaders speak to the press on March 28, 2020 in Seattle, Washington.

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee during a 2020 news conference in Seattle. Photo: Karen Ducey/Getty Images

All Washington state teachers and school staff must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 under a new employment condition announced by Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The requirement that includes school bus drivers and volunteers in the public and private sectors marks the strictest vaccine mandate for schools in the U.S. Staff have to be vaccinated by Oct. 18 or face the threat of being fired.

The big picture: Washington state is experiencing surging coronavirus cases numbers and hospitalizations. Inslee noted at a news conference Wednesday that 95% of coronavirus patients hospitalized in the state were unvaccinated.

  • Inslee also announced Wednesday that he's expanding a statewide mask mandate for indoor public spaces to include everyone, regardless of their COVID-19 vaccination status.
  • The Democratic governor this month imposed a vaccine mandate for most state employees and health care workers.

What he's saying: "This is a legally binding document," Inslee said of his order mandating all K-12 employees get vaccinated.

  • "We are well past the point where testing is enough to keep people safe. We tried it. It has not been adequate to the task at hand."
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