Aug 9, 2021
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript August 9
Washington Governor Jay Inslee held a COVID-19 press conference on August 9, 2021. He announced a COVID vaccine mandate for most state employees. Read the full news briefing speech transcript here.
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Susan Mullaney: (08:38)
… Permanente Capitol Hill Medical Center. It’s great to have you all here today. And we are honored to have Governor Inslee, Mayor Durkan, Executive Constantine, Secretary Shaw, and Dr. Duchin here today to talk about a crucial step we are taking to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. Historically, vaccines have brought an end to the epidemics of smallpox, polio and other deadly diseases, and right now, vaccines are the only way to bring an end to this pandemic. With the dramatic increase in serious COVID-19 cases primarily affecting unvaccinated individuals, it’s critical that we vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. I can’t overemphasize the importance or seriousness of what we’re facing as a state, a nation and the global community. Here at home, although we’ve made incredible, incredible strides to offer and insure vaccination for all Washingtonians, we still see a large number of unvaccinated individuals which has increased the risk for everyone.
Susan Mullaney: (10:14)
This surge is having an untenable impact on healthcare workers and in healthcare facilities across the state. We must do all that we can to protect ourselves, to protect each other and those we serve from this deadly virus. Last week, Kaiser Permanente announced that we’re requiring all employees and all physicians to be fully vaccinated by September 30th. As the country’s largest integrated care delivery system, it’s our responsibility to continue to lead the way to keep our communities, members, patients and one another safe and healthy. A fully vaccinated workforce of employees and physicians will help us demonstrate our deep commitment to disease prevention, public health, and most importantly, ending this pandemic. We look forward to working with the governor, the state, labor partners and our fantastic labor partners at Kaiser Permanente and our fellow healthcare systems to make this a reality in Washington State. And with that, it’s my honor and pleasure to welcome Governor Jay Inslee. Thank you.
Gov. Jay Inslee: (11:46)
Thank you, Susan, for your leadership. Good afternoon, everyone. This is a beautiful afternoon, but we have to recognize a reality. We have essentially what is a new virus at our throats, a new virus that is twice as transmittable and is causing an explosion of this dread disease in the state of Washington. We’re in the middle of an explosive threat to our freedoms because of this disease. We want the freedom of not having to shut down our economy again. We want the freedom of not having to wear masks sometime in the future. We want freedom of our children not having to worry about getting this disease, and we want freedom for everyone to live without even to think about the COVID virus. And we know that there is only one path to that freedom and that is through more Washingtonians getting this safe, effective, successful vaccine. Therefore today, the state of Washington is taking decisive action against this COVID disease.
Gov. Jay Inslee: (12:59)
We do so to protect our vulnerable communities, to prevent further calamity to our state and to once again be on the path to full recovery for the state of Washington. So we will be requiring our state workers and our contractors who come onto our sites and workers in private healthcare and long-term care settings to be vaccinated as a condition of further employment. Individuals covered by this order I will issue today will have until October 18th to become fully vaccinated against the COVID disease. Now that means you essentially have to have your last vaccination by October 4th, depending on which particular vaccine you take. And as we know, you have to take two doses of the Moderna and Pfizer product. So October 18th will be the date. We will expect all of our state employees and folks in healthcare settings to become fully vaccinated and therefore-
Gov. Jay Inslee: (14:02)
… healthcare settings to become fully vaccinated and therefore save lives in the state of Washington. This will be a condition of further employment in the state of Washington. Now, we know it’s the mission of public servants, people I’m very proud of, you look at the people who work for the state of Washington, they’ve been doing some great work recently, certainly in the Department of Health, to try to fight this disease. I’ve seen up close and personal how hard they’re working. These workers live in every community in our state. They work together every day in public service. They are people who went into their profession because they care about their communities. And we know that they believe that they have a duty, as we all do, to protect our fellow citizens from this virus.
Gov. Jay Inslee: (14:47)
And those fellow citizens have a right to be protected. They have a right to not be infected by those who are not vaccinated. So we know we’re experiencing a severe increase in the disease because of the Delta variant. Cases and hospitalizations are spiking. Just a week or two ago, they doubled in only one week, and they’re heading upward. Since the first wave, this is the highest number that we have had. And we know that the overwhelming majority, something like 95% of recent hospitalizations, are for people who’ve not been vaccinated. Today, this is a disease of those who have not been vaccinated. And we have to recognize this reality, the reason we are in this pickle today is because about 30% of our eligible citizens so far have chosen not to get this life saving vaccine. But we know it’s never too late to make the right choice. And we’re confident that people will.
Gov. Jay Inslee: (15:54)
The majority, the large majority, of Washingtonians have already done the right thing to get vaccinated, and we simply need more people to roll up their sleeves literally and help pull on this rope. It’s understandable I think that some have been hesitant up till now. It’s understandable. They would ask questions about this vaccine. It’s a new vaccine, by the way. But now we have had over 300 million people take this vaccine safely. Over 165 million Americans are already successfully vaccinated. This vaccine has now been in arms for over a year safely and effectively. So we need folks to protect everyone, including our children. Children under 12 can’t get this vaccine and they are potential victims of being transmitted this disease by those folks who are not vaccinated. We know these things work and we know it’s a key to ending this pandemic.
Gov. Jay Inslee: (16:54)
I want to thank Kaiser Permanente for hosting us. They’ve shown leadership. I appreciate this hospital. They operated under my foot and it worked really well back in the mid-60s. I also want to thank Bob Ferguson, who was the first public official in Washington who essentially advanced this step for the people who work in his shop. And I certainly encourage all local governments in higher education and legislature, other elected officials, and others in the private sector to join us because without this folks are going to continue to be breeding grounds for further mutations potentially of this virus. This could get worse if we don’t get more people vaccinated. Now, our policy in my executive order will provide for limited exemptions from the vaccine requirement that citizens can apply for. These are not automatic exemptions. Applications will be considered. Someone with legitimate medical reasons or sincerely held religious beliefs for not getting the vaccine can make applications. These exemptions do not include personal or philosophical objections.
Gov. Jay Inslee: (18:12)
Again, the idea here is to keep everybody safe because we are past the point of thinking we can test our way to safety here. Tests are helpful, but what we have learned in the state of Washington is that they don’t solve the problem. I’ll give you an example. We have had a testing requirement now of I believe once a week for our folks who work in our Department of Corrections. But in the last month, we’ve lost two deaths of people in our Department of Corrections who had been tested. We simply cannot lose more people who work for us in the state of Washington. These are dedicated people. They deserve our protection and we owe them their family’s protection as well. We think this is a prudent decision for that reason. Now, I want to say that I respect diversity of opinion about this. I know there is diversity of opinion about this, and I understand there’s rational discussions that have taken place, but we need some more rational discussions.
Gov. Jay Inslee: (19:18)
And I hope that folks will continue to talk to their coworkers and their families and their neighbors about this. Encourage them to talk to their physician. They’ll tell you, when you have over 300 million doses given safely, it’s the right time that we move forward together as a state. And we know that disinformation has been a problem. And the answer to disinformation is the truth. And all of us are sharing a truth today. When we vaccinate state employees, we protect citizens that they serve. When we vaccinate state employees, we protect state employees. And when we vaccinate employees, we reduce the threat that we have to take other measures in the future because of this dreaded disease. So we’re protecting all of Washington when we make this decision. So we’ve had many leaders work on this. I’d like to introduce Dow Constantine, County Executive.
Dow Constantine: (20:29)
Thank you, Governor, for the introduction, and more to the point, thank you for taking the step today to protect the health of everyone in our state. King County will be mirroring the state employee policy and we will be requiring all 13,500 executive branch employees to be vaccinated by mid-October. We too will work with our labor unions to negotiate the details for implementation. King County is already one of the leading communities in the state when it comes to vaccination, with more than 81% of everyone over the age of 12 having had at least one dose, and 75.5% of people fully vaccinated. And our workforce has also stepped up in even more impressive numbers. From our public health staff, of course, but also our metro operators and our licensing employees and our parks workers, and everyone in between to help ensure that everyone can stay healthy.
Dow Constantine: (21:38)
As of right now, more than 80% of our workforce is fully vaccinated and today’s announcement will help ensure that we reach our goal of 100% by fall. I hope the people of King County will take note of today’s united front, and it’s not just the public sector, either. It’s private sector employers as well. Employers like Microsoft and Climate Pledge Arena, the Oak View Group, and our host today, Kaiser Permanente, taking the same necessary, sensible steps. We think the results will be clear and steps like this at the local and organizational level are what the experts think are necessary, experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci. So we’re standing together, albeit quite a distance apart here, to let everyone know about the importance of this moment. The Delta variant is spreading in our community now. It’s more contagious, more infectious, more dangerous than what came before it. And there’s one group of people that it is hitting by far the hardest, the unvaccinated. The science is clear, vaccines work. They’re safe. They’re our best way to end this pandemic and there is no reason not to take the time to get your vaccine and help protect your health before you get sick. But getting your vaccine isn’t just or even primarily about protecting yourself. It’s something you do for your family. It’s something you do for your friends, for your neighbors, for your coworkers, and particularly for the children who are unable to be vaccinated. So let’s all do our part, every one of us, to get every person vaccinated against this disease that has taken such a tragic toll on our community over the last year and a half. I saw last week the Seahawks announced that they had reached a 99% vaccination rate in their organization. 99%, that sounds like a challenge to me.
Dow Constantine: (24:10)
So I’m looking forward to this fall when for the first time ever the King County Executive Branch will try to best the Seahawks in at least one measure, and that is hitting a 100% vaccinated. So let’s do this King County. Let’s show the nation how it is done by getting everyone in our community vaccinated and safe. And now it is time for me to introduce our strong partner throughout this entire challenge over the course of the year and a half, and not just in COVID, in much else as well, Seattle Mayor, Jenny Durkan.
Jenny Durkan: (24:57)
Thank you very much. Thank you, Governor. Thank you, Dow. Thanks to the other partners, Susan for hosting us here. Good afternoon. Thank you, everyone who’s joining us here today. Just 17 months ago, the COVID-19 pandemic touched down in our region and up ended everything in our lives. We worked quickly to launch programs to curb the spread of the virus, to help those who are most impacted. Lines of government business changed overnight as did all of our public partners in the healthcare industry. And today you see one of the large reasons why this region and this city have been most successful in fighting this disease, a unified front behind us, and many levels deep. You see not just your elected officials, but your healthcare industry, private industry, our public health industry together, working together to do what the science mandates, and do not just what we need for today, but to anticipate what we will need tomorrow so that we can come out of this safely. Our work to save lives does not happen by accident. It happens by the choices we make. Let me say that again. The work to save lives does not happen by accident. It happens through the choices that we make. From the initial days till today, Governor Inslee, Executive Constantine, and I believed we needed to speak as one with government, but we needed to listen to public health and work with private industry. We needed to listen to community, all working together every step of the way with our partners. We took extraordinary efforts to provide the help that people needed. From cash assistance to providing small businesses with parking, we worked together to fight this terrible disease. Now, in Seattle, we have seen that our small businesses have been leading the way to get into many bars and restaurants. They’re saying, “Get vaccinated or don’t come in.”
Jenny Durkan: (26:59)
Now, we’re speaking as one government to create a model so some in our region and state’s largest employers can say, “You must be vaccinated.” Your coworkers and the businesses and residents that you serve need you to keep them safe. You cannot do that if you’re not vaccinated. This is how is the as Executive Constantine says, “We’ll protect our families and our communities, our coworkers, our children.” Thanks in large part to our collective actions, Seattle is the safest city in America. Even as cases have risen here regionally, Seattle has the lowest cases, deaths, and hospitalizations of any city. We also have one of the highest vaccination rates with 82.5% of residents 12 and above who have at least one dose. Over 82%. Our work to save lives again does not happen by accident. It happens by the choices that we make. Seattle has not-
Jenny Durkan: (28:03)
… happens by the choices that we make. Seattle has not reported a death from COVID since July 11th. This past winter, approximately two people were dying a day. That’s how much progress we’ve made. It shows that vaccinations work. This has become a pandemic of the unvaccinated. The only way to fight it is to get everyone vaccinated. The Delta variant is one of the most dangerous mutations yet. We know there may be additional mutations coming, but right now, we know it is spreading through our communities and across our nation. We also know that people under the age of 12 cannot get vaccinated at all, so this variant is a particular risk to our children. I want to thank again the governor for his leadership and friendship throughout this, as well as Executive Constantine. We have had so many calls. I want to thank all the elected officials up and down the I-5 quarter and throughout the state who have taken the time to think about what we need to do next.
Jenny Durkan: (29:06)
How do we not just protect our community, but how do we come out of this? And you’ve seen now what it looks like when we start to come out of this pandemic, being able to come together to get together with family, but vaccinations are the road to having a normal life. It’s crucial to keep workplaces open to be able to eat together, meet together, go to sports, see the Seahawks actually in person, and to save people from illness and hospitalizations. Vaccinations are the key. Do it for your family, for your coworkers, for your friends. But we know that it makes a difference. That’s why the city of Seattle also will make this a condition of employment for people working for the city at the same date in October.
Jenny Durkan: (29:53)
We want to make everyone vaccinated. We will give people opportunities. You can get free vaccinations. We will work with our labor partners to make sure that we bargain all the parts, but here’s what we know. City government is about service. To serve people, you have to be safe and you have to keep them safe. And now in the middle of this pandemic, with this very dangerous variant, the way to do that is through vaccinations. I now am very honored to introduce one of our great partners at the state level in public health, Dr. Shah.
Dr. Shah: (30:34)
Thank you, Mayor Durkan, really appreciate those comments. County Executive Constantine, thank you as well. And Susan, thank you for hosting us today, and it’s great to be here with Dr. Duchin. My name is Dr. Umair Shah, secretary of health for the great state of Washington. I want to thank our governor, Governor Inslee, for your ongoing leadership throughout this pandemic and for taking these important steps today. None of us wish we had to be here today, but this pandemic rages on not just across our country, but across our state. I want to start by thanking the millions of Washingtonians who have helped us fight this pandemic by getting vaccinated. Unfortunately, we still have far too many of our fellow Washingtonians who have not gotten their vaccine thus far. They are not just unvaccinated, they are unprotected, and they were a big reason why our state is once again seeing a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases.
Dr. Shah: (31:42)
We’re not just seeing a rise in cases, but our healthcare system is under immense strain as the Delta variant is now at least 85% of our cases, and our modeling shows that to be over 95%. What the governor has announced today shows that we at the state support vaccines, and that we must protect ourselves and those around us, those we serve. Additionally, we know vaccines are key to prevent healthcare workers from being the very source of COVID-19 transmission in the patients and clients they serve. It is hard for all of us to watch cases increase and vaccination rates slow when we have vaccines available. As the governor mentioned, they work, they are safe, they are effective, they prevent serious illness and death. Let me be clear, our rise in cases is largely due to those people not getting vaccinated, but the decision not to get vaccinated is now impacting others as well. We hear stories every single day of people in our community who are continuing to face the devastating consequences of this disease on Washington families and the very communities in which they live.
Dr. Shah: (33:13)
That’s why whatever we can do to help increase our vaccination rates across the state, we at the Department of Health support. Vaccines, along with other measures such as wearing masks indoors, are key to ending this pandemic. If you are fully vaccinated, thank you for protecting everyone around you, including those who cannot be vaccinated, like kids. If you are not vaccinated, today is the time to talk to your healthcare provider. Today is the time to talk to your healthcare provider. Again, Governor, thank you for your leadership on this issue. We at Department of Health at the state stand ready with our public health colleagues across the state and the country to continue this fight against this pandemic. I also want to close by saying Lacy Fehrenbach, who leads our COVID-19 response, is here for questions and answers. And I’m going to turn it over to Dr. Jeff Duchin, who’s not just local health officer here at Public Health – Seattle & King County, but he is also on the board of the Infectious Disease Society of America. Thank you. Jeff.
Dr. Duchin: (34:34)
Good afternoon. I’d also like to start by thanking Dr. Shah for the ongoing partnership with the state Department of Health and our elected leaders Governor Inslee, Executive Constantine, Mayor Durkan, Susan McLaughlin from Kaiser, and all of our tremendous healthcare system colleagues in King County who have been on the front lines since the get-go, and continue to be as this Delta virus surges. Vaccination is the best tool among a variety of strategies that are needed to reduce preventable illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths. Requiring vaccination of healthcare providers as a condition of employment is absolutely the right thing to do to protect patients and healthcare workers themselves, their families, and our communities. No one should have to worry about getting COVID-19 from a healthcare provider, period. Thank you, Governor Inslee for taking this important step. On July 3rd, Public Health – Seattle & King County joined a wide range of medical, nursing, hospital, public health, and other professional societies endorsing mandatory vaccinations for healthcare personnel as a condition of employment.
Dr. Duchin: (35:54)
These professional organizations include the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Nursing and the American Nurses Association, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society, the American Public Health Association, LeadingAge, and many, many others. As a current member of the board of directors for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, I’d like to highlight a few of the key benefits of mandatory healthcare provider vaccinations that are described in the multi-society statement we issued last month. Vaccination of healthcare providers against COVID-19 provides individual protection against COVID-19 infection. It reduces the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death. It protects patients and healthcare providers who are unable to receive COVID-19 vaccination. It protects patients who are not able to mount an adequate immune response, or who are at high risk for severe COVID-19. It decreases the risk of COVID-19 spreading to patients and coworkers from people with asymptomatic and presymptomatic infection. It reduces the risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to household members and community contacts, and it increases protection for community health care workforce.
Dr. Duchin: (37:26)
COVID- 19 has clearly shown us that we are all interconnected, literally by the air we breathe, and we depend on one another to protect the health of each and every one of us, including the most vulnerable. Healthcare facilities and healthcare workers have an obligation to provide a safe environment for patients and for workers. Requiring COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment puts patients first while also protecting healthcare workers, families, and our community. Thank you very much for joining today. I’m turning the podium over to Governor Inslee to moderate for questions.
Gov. Jay Inslee: (38:13)
Thank you. A couple of followups before I stand for your questions. Look, the last time we were in a situation like this, we had to shut down major parts of our economy. We do not want to do that again. There is no reason on this green earth why people who are vaccinated should lose the right to go to a restaurant or go to school or go to work because some folks won’t get vaccinated in our state. That’s just not right. It’s not fair, it’s not acceptable, and we are not going to allow our hospitals to be overrun where you can’t get into an emergency room when your kid breaks their arm or you’re in a car wreck. And I want to talk, if I can, just for a moment to those folks who believe they’re indestructible, and they just don’t think this is worthy of their time for their own health.
Gov. Jay Inslee: (39:05)
You may think that, but we got to keep our hospitals operating. And if you ever get into a car wreck and you got to go to the hospital, you need a hospital that’s functioning. And today, we have… Hospitals today are having to ship patients all over the… Hundreds of miles sometimes to get care. The Tri-Cities is becoming overwhelmed, Walla Walla, and these numbers are going through the roof. Now, our hospital system is not shut down today totally across the state, but that’s where we’re heading if we do not act. And we have been successful in the past in Washington State as one of the most successful states in the United States, because we’ve acted ahead of the curve rather than behind the curve. So we are acting today. A couple of procedural things about this. Our mandate today does not apply to certain state employees. It does not apply to employees of agencies that are controlled by separately-elected statewide officials.
Gov. Jay Inslee: (40:02)
We prefer to allow those statewide elected officials to consider this matter, and we’ll be talking to them over the next few days. It does not include the K through 12 system or universities at this moment, but we’re moving forward. I want to make a note about masks. As you know, we have recommended everyone use mask in indoor environments. We want to reaffirm that recommendation today. We are not making a requirement to that regard today, but people need to understand this is a wily beast we’re fighting. And I can tell you, if these trends continue, we will have to take further actions of one dimension or another to restrain this pandemic. So that’s why we’re so committed to getting more people vaccinated today. So with that, happy to stand for your questions. And obviously, all these folks will take your questions as you direct them.
Speaker 1: (41:04)
Gov. Jay Inslee: (41:31)
Well, these are very, very rough numbers. We’ve obviously never done a census track research on this. We have about 60,000 employees that potentially could be covered directly from the state. We have thousands who are contractors to the state of Washington. So if you are working for a contractor providing services and you go on a site that is controlled by the state of Washington, you will require as a condition of employment to be vaccinated. That includes construction sites where the state is doing business. That includes our offices.
Gov. Jay Inslee: (42:03)
… construction sites, where the state is doing business. That includes our offices. So, contractors who do business with the state, essentially everyone who works in a healthcare setting, and there are about 400,000 licensed healthcare providers in the state of Washington who potentially could be effected by this. So this is a significant number of folks, but we hope this will serve as a beacon for other employers, public and private. We’ve been ahead quite often during this pandemic and other people have followed us. We hope that will be the case here so that we can get to the numbers that we really need. Does anyone want to add anything? Lacey or Dr. Shah, do you want to add numbers?
Dr. Umair Shah: (42:45)
Governor, thank you. Governor Inslee is correct. In addition to the 60,000 state workers he spoke of, it’s 400,000 health professionals across the state of Washington. So again, depending on some of the exclusions, but that’s the number that we’re starting with. So that’s about a half a million, if you will, across the state of Washington.
Speaker 2: (43:08)
[inaudible 00:43:08] half a million or not a half a million additional folks already [crosstalk 00:43:13]-
Dr. Umair Shah: (43:13)
These are already people that … This is a total number. And then some of those, obviously … Actually, we’re hoping that the majority of those are already vaccinated, and this is the additional folks that we’re now focusing on.
Speaker 2: (43:29)
Dr. Umair Shah: (43:34)
No, this is the total number that we have.
Speaker 2: (43:39)
Dr. Umair Shah: (43:45)
So, we’re at 70% in terms of the eligibility, depending on if you look at 18-plus or 16-plus. So what we’re looking at doing is to be … We have given … 4.5 million people across the state of Washington have gotten a COVID vaccine thus far, if that helps.
Gov. Jay Inslee: (44:16)
Let me … I want to add something to this point, Dr. Shah.
Dr. Umair Shah: (44:18)
Gov. Jay Inslee: (44:20)
Because I want to make sure I understood your question. We’re about 70.6% of all eligible Washingtonians have received at least a first dose. Of state employees, we do not have a specific number in that regard, but it varies considerably. And unfortunately, some are … Even maybe less than 50% of some of our institutions, some of our agencies. We think we might be in the realm of 70-plus statewide, but this is very disparate geographically and in different agencies. So, we want to have a consistent standard across the state of Washington. Does that your question?
Speaker 2: (44:59)
I think so. So, you’re saying some agencies in some places [inaudible 00:45:03]-
Gov. Jay Inslee: (45:03)
Speaker 2: (45:07)
But overall, [inaudible 00:45:07] 70%?
Gov. Jay Inslee: (45:07)
That’s correct. And these are estimates. They’re only estimates because we’re using health insurance company PEB data, but not everybody is in PEB. So, these are estimates.
Speaker 2: (45:17)
And 60,000 would include just the state employees that are under your authority now would not include somebody like DMR [inaudible 00:45:28].
Gov. Jay Inslee: (45:27)
That’s the best estimate we have right now, yes.
Speaker 3: (45:31)
Governor, [inaudible 00:45:33] the hammer, you obviously have state employees … They’re employees of the state. You can fire them, or you can [inaudible 00:45:42] challenges. One, can you tell me how quickly the hammer will drop for state employees if they don’t get vaccinated? Is it an immediate thing? Will we see particularly big numbers? And then two, [inaudible 00:45:56] over to private sector employees who maybe their employer [inaudible 00:46:05] or could they risk license suspension or what’s going to happen to them?
Gov. Jay Inslee: (46:14)
Well, we’re getting the cart a little bit ahead of the horse. But, as we’ve made clear, contractors, this will have to be a condition of employment for those people who do business on state property in those areas controlled by the state during our operations. One way or another, people will need to come in compliance with that. We would expect our contractors as employers to assure that that is the case, or one way or another pursuant to our emergency order, they will not be doing business for the state of Washington. And that’s pursuant to our order.
Gov. Jay Inslee: (46:48)
Now, we don’t believe that it’s going to come to that. There’s a thousand phone calls before we get to that point. But, this is a legally binding emergency proclamation by the governor of the state of Washington. And look, as I’ve reiterated, we understand hesitancy. People have heard a lot of mistruths about this. They’ve heard there’s a microchip in the virus. That’s a myth. They’ve heard it can affect your fertility, that’s a myth. They’ve heard that it hasn’t been tested on people. There are over 165 million Americans who’ve received this.
Gov. Jay Inslee: (47:25)
So, they’ve heard a lot of these myths. So, we understand some of this hesitancy, but the point is, if you won’t do your share and get vaccinated now, you won’t be working for the state of Washington. Your first question is, enforcement of individuals will be appropriate to the circumstances. I would assume that there would be some contact before a discharge notice is issued and we will follow the contracts and the process in that regard. But, this has to happen in a reasonable time period. We can’t wait until the next 4th of July to save lives here. So, this is serious proposal or order and we’re going to follow it.
Speaker 3: (48:01)
[inaudible 00:48:01] understand about the private healthcare workers who don’t work for the state, but might not be contracted with the state. They’re under this order, right?
Gov. Jay Inslee: (48:09)
Speaker 3: (48:10)
How do they [inaudible 00:48:12].
Gov. Jay Inslee: (48:11)
Yeah. The question was, what is the enforcement mechanism for private healthcare employers? It is the same enforcement mechanism we have if they’re giving the wrong drug to somebody and they die. It’s the same enforcement mechanism if they’re not providing hygiene in their surgical suites. This is a life and safety rule they have to follow. They could lose their license at some point, if that became necessary. But again, I hesitate to think about those things because I don’t think they’re going to happen. The employer community in healthcare, I believe largely understands why this is a good policy. So, I do not anticipate employer noncompliance in this regard. Anything else? Are we taking questions from other people, Tara, or …
Gov. Jay Inslee: (49:02)
Could you defer for a moment. We’ve got …
Gov. Jay Inslee: (49:24)
I don’t know the answer to that question and I don’t want to see that happen. These are valued people. They do great work. They work hard. They’ve been working during COVID really, really hard. They’re doing valuable public service. We’ve invested tons in training them. These are precious to the state of Washington. We don’t want to see that happen. We’re going to engage in providing them as much medical information as they’re willing to listen to. And a lot of these folks, frankly, have not had a chance because they haven’t seen it necessary to really sit down and look at the medical information. They’ve heard Uncle Harvey say something at the dinner table that’s not true, or they saw a tweet for somebody.
Gov. Jay Inslee: (50:03)
By the way, there are whole industries whose job it is to provide misinformation about this. So, we’re going to work like the Dickens in the upcoming days to provide good, solid medical information to people. And again, we encourage everyone to talk to their physician about this subject, if they do have questions and we hope that that will succeed. I will get you a specific answer about unemployment soon as I can.
Speaker 4: (50:25)
[inaudible 00:50:25] what was the point that you said, “This is [inaudible 00:50:25].” [inaudible 00:50:25] what did you say [inaudible 00:50:52].
Gov. Jay Inslee: (50:53)
Well, I think that obviously we look at this every single day, as you know, and get the best data we can get every single day. For me, it’s a combination of two things that necessitated the step. One, where you actually see hospitals no longer able to function appropriately. When they’re having to ship patients to a different county or even to a different state because they can’t function, that brings this home. And we’re seeing some of our hospitals in the worst hit position or places. We have counties in the state today that have three times higher infection rate than King County. And so, we’re seeing the future in those counties. We’re seeing what are happening in tri-cities today happening in other counties in the next several weeks or months, because all counties are going up. Every single county’s numbers are going up. So, when I have a window into the future that hospitals can’t function, that means we got to act. Now, I will tell you this, on a personal basis, I went to a memorial service for one of our state employees a couple of weeks ago, and this person left a nine-year-old daughter. And I was listening to this daughter and I’m going, “This young girl didn’t have to lose her father who was in his early 40s.”
Gov. Jay Inslee: (52:14)
And I just don’t want any state employee or their family to suffer needless death. And we now have had two needless deaths that I’m aware of in our department of corrections alone, even though we’ve had a testing protocol that’s really good. And that hit me right here, to see more children lose their parents. So, it is a time to take action. I believe it’s my responsibility to take action, and we are. [crosstalk 00:52:42] Anything else?
Speaker 5: (52:44)
… [inaudible 00:52:44] if the union thinks it’s subject to bargaining, how can the Governor fire over vaccine refusal?
Gov. Jay Inslee: (52:49)
So, this is a binding condition of employment. We are tremendously confident that the state has the ability to make this a condition of employment, but we do have an obligation to bargain the impacts of that decision. And if the unions want to have that discussion, we will have a discussion with the union representatives. But this clearly is within the ability of the … The necessity in this case, from a life and safety standpoint, to make a requirement. We have thousands of safety regulations on our books that are executive decisions, fall protection, seatbelts, you name it, that are necessary for the protection of our employees, and for the public. And so, we feel this is entirely appropriate.
Speaker 6: (53:40)
Governor [inaudible 00:53:40], could you give an example [inaudible 00:53:41] will determine what is a [inaudible 00:53:51].
Gov. Jay Inslee: (53:54)
We will have further guidance on this in the upcoming days. We’re putting on the finishing touches of that approach, so we’ll share those when they’re available. But obviously, given the nature of this, we’re looking for sincerity and integrity of reporting to the employer, and we will expect that from all employees, but we’ll get you more information in the upcoming days.
Speaker 7: (54:20)
[inaudible 00:54:20] we need to know.
Gov. Jay Inslee: (54:21)
Anything? Please be safe. Be well. And-