Inslee announces vaccine mandate for K-12, higher ed employees; reinstates indoor mask rule

Gov. Jay Inslee

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday that all employees in K-12 and higher education will be required to be fully vaccinated by mid-October. Inslee also announced an expansion of the statewide indoor mask mandate to all individuals, regardless of vaccination status.

In response to rapidly rising COVID-19 hospitalizations, Inslee said during an Aug. 18 press conference that all K-12 educators, school staff, coaches, bus drivers, school volunteers and others working in school facilities will have until Oct. 18 to be fully vaccinated as a condition of employment.

The vaccine requirement includes public, private and charter schools, and comes as schools statewide prepare to return for the 2021-22 school year. Inslee said the inoculation mandate does not impact students, regardless of age. Some exceptions can be made for medical or religious reasons, the governor added.

As with state employees and private health are workers, there will be no test-out option. Unions may bargain with school districts to negotiate time off to receive the vaccine or recover from symptoms of the vaccine. Just like the state worker mandate, there are limited exceptions under law which employees may apply for, including legitimate medical reasons and sincerely held religious beliefs. Individuals who refuse to get vaccinated will be subject to dismissal.

Inslee was joined by Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal and state Secretary of Health Dr. Umair A. Shah.

“It has been a long pandemic, and our students and teachers have borne their own unique burdens throughout,” Inslee said. “This virus is increasingly impacting young people, and those under the age of 12 still can’t get the vaccine for themselves. We won’t gamble with the health of our children, our educators and school staff, nor the health of the communities they serve.”

Inslee also announced a vaccine requirement for employees in Washington’s higher education institutions, as well as for most child care and early learning providers who serve children from multiple households.

In a statement released Wednesday, Edmonds School District Superintendent Gustavo Balderas said the district will be enforcing the governor’s mandate and encouraged all who are eligible to be vaccinated.

While some may not be able to receive the vaccine for health or religious reasons, Balderas said students’ safety is the district’s priority.

“We are first and foremost here for our students,” he said. “They are why our staff get up each day. It is our job to provide a safe learning environment so our learners can develop socially, emotionally and academically. To do that in the shadow of a pandemic is challenging.”

The governor also announced that the state’s existing mask mandate will be expanded to once again include vaccinated individuals in indoor settings effective Monday, Aug. 23.

The expansion comes after Washington recently broke the previous record for COVID hospitalizations set in December. Every county in the state currently falls within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) substantial or high transmission, and each of the state’s 35 local health officers recently recommended all individuals wear masks indoors.

The mask mandate will apply to most all public places across the state, including restaurants, grocery stores, malls and public-facing offices, 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.

While not required, the Department of Health strongly recommends individuals also wear masks in crowded outdoor settings, such as outdoor concerts, fairs and farmers markets.


  1. I told you this would never end and it never will as long as Inslee has unilateral ( emergency) power over our lives.

  2. This is excellent news for every single person in this State.

    So far there has been no factual reason to not get the COVID vaccine. With the unvaccinated accounting for over 99% of those being killed by the disease and being hospitalized for it, the safety and effectiveness of this vaccine is accepted fact.

    Without any factual reason to oppose the vaccine, the anti vaccine conspiracies are falling further and further away from reality. Now the idea that the vaccines could someone be related to an old Hollywood movie about monsters that didn’t even anything to do with vaccines is making the rounds. Without any facts to oppose the vaccine, the only move for anti vaccine conspiracies is to go farther and farther away from real life sane reasoning.

    This is a basic safety measure that is reasonable, based in real world facts, and would have a measurable impact for the kids and members of our community. I have not agreed with all of Governor Inslee’s moves, but this is one of his best. I congratulate him for his leadership and reasonable move on this. This will be beneficial for everyone in this State.

    1. Hey Evan, Do you want to be a citizen or a subject ? I have been vax’d, my personal choice and as I recall the tyrant in Olympia said once we are vax’d we don’t need to wear the dehumanizing face rags. This is tyranny pure and simple and FYI, it is never going away. Recall is recommended for situations like this.

  3. This is blatant and dangerous Government overreach. The data is actually irrelevant in this case because it’s about our protected individual freedoms and choice.
    The Government should not have the power to force any citizen to vaccinate, period.
    Where is the FDA approval for Pete’s sake? I think this might help quell some of the hesitancy.

    In addition, this mandate doesn’t take into account those who have actually had Covid and are naturally immune, so it’s lacking in science, IMO. It’s just “the Govt knows best.” Never a good outcome.

    We are on slippery ground here folks.

    I vehemently disagree with Evan Nelson’s opinion that Gov Insley should be congratulated- this is not what great leadership looks like!
    It’s called authoritarianism.

    P.S.- I am vaccinated and it was my own personal choice to do so as a free citizen of the USA who is protected by the Constitution. I respect and will always defend the personal freedom of every US citizen to make this choice for themselves.

    1. There’s a very good reason why vaccine mandates have long been found to be constitutionally legal, and completely in line with our fundamental rights and freedoms of this Country.

      You have a lot of rights in this Country, but you have never had the right to purposefully go out an infect yourself with deadly viruses to kill those around you in your family and community. Protecting our life, safety, and liberty is a fundamental duty of our American Government. Protecting our safety by ensuring usage of a reasonable and proven safe and effective vaccine in our most critical areas is fulfilling one of the basic duties of our government.

      Places like Florida and Texas where they are preventing schools from being able to stay open by not allowing them the most basic protections to keep the kids from spreading infections, is abandoning their basic duty of governance. They are literally killing thousands of their constituents to make a pointless political stunt.

      We are lucky that we have a government that ensures the rights of the Freedom for basic safety in this State.

      1. “George Washington’s military genius is undisputed. Yet American independence must be partially attributed to a strategy for which history has given the infamous general little credit: his controversial medical actions. Traditionally, the Battle of Saratoga is credited with tipping the revolutionary scales. Yet the health of the Continental regulars involved in battle was a product of the ambitious initiative Washington began earlier that year at Morristown, close on the heels of the victorious Battle of Princeton. Among the Continental regulars in the American Revolution, 90 percent of deaths were caused by disease, and Variola the small pox virus was the most vicious of them all. (Gabriel and Metz 1992, 107)

        “On the 6th of January 1777, George Washington wrote to Dr. William Shippen Jr., ordering him to inoculate all of the forces that came through Philadelphia. ”

        Thank heaven Washington didn’t ask them to mask up. THAT would have been tyranny! And we’d all be subjects, not citizens!

    2. “I respect and will always defend the personal freedom of every US citizen to make this choice for themselves.”

      But not in regard to

      – being required to have a driver’s license?
      – observing speed limits?
      – seat belt requirements?
      – bike helmets?
      – needing vaccination for travel to some countries?
      – proving good eyesight to renew driver’s license?
      – lifeboat drill on cruise ships?
      – burn bans?
      – paying taxes?
      – the Draft in time of war?

      We are hedged in with goverment overreach and mandates!

      1. The mayor just nullified DWS and you’ve defended that. It’s laughable to see how logically inconsistent you are.

        1. Glad I provided you a good laugh! But perhaps you can point out when I defended the suspension of DWS (I assume you mean Driving While Suspended)? Or how pointing out that we accept plenty of restrictions is in any way inconsistent with anything I’ve posted?

  4. A few folks in this discussion overlook the fact that our freedoms do not include the freedom to harm others. If this was just a personal matter, whether you want to live or risk dying, and that’s all vaccination meant, then fine, reject the vaccine and take your chances.

    But that’s not the game we’re playing with the Delta virus. It’s highly contagious, and society has a right to insist that people not be a party to its spread to others. Children are forced to take many vaccines (I’ve lost count) before they can begin school. Vaccines are nothing new or scary. People need to grow up and start behaving responsibly.

    Yes, this has been said before, but some people are not getting the message. Vax up~ it’s not just your life you’re dealing with. It’s your family and neighbors also.

    1. Extremely well said Roger on both this comment, and your response below. “Freedoms do not include the freedom to harm others.”

      Having vaccines required in our most critical areas is really the bare minimum that we should be doing. Especially something that has been so thoroughly proven to be effective and safe.

      There was never any reason that this should have become so contentious when it is a benefit to all.

  5. So Roger, what is your thoughts on those who have already had the virus and have anti-bodies. Do you feel that a mandatory vaccine( it’s not a vaccine) is required? Those who have been jabbed can pass it on our still get the virus. No different than anyone else. What about the flu shot? Influenza kills and a flu shot is not mandated. The fact is, whether or not one decides to get the jab, it should be a individual choice that is respected. Everyone needs to make the choice that fits their health and beliefs. Government has no business mandating a jab that is not FDA approved as well as threaten City and State employees with termination. This is not the American way.

    1. Ah yes, lets play whataboutism, looking for this situation or that, and speculating about differences. I stand by what I wrote above. Personally, I’d never take the risk of working alongside non-vaccinated colleagues. Employers who tolerate non-vaccinated staff risk losing workers; they can move to safer opportunities, especially in this current economy.

      Similarly, I’d never tolerate a loved one living in a care home not requiring all residents, staff and visitors be vaccinated. Vaccinated people are less likely to catch the virus and thus less likely to spread it. People can cry Freedom to avoid the jab, if that’s so important to them, but the rest of us can cry Freedom from associating with unvaccinated people. The greater wisdom is *still*~ take the jab and stay healthy.

  6. Unvaccinated people are getting infected then pulling themselves out of their deathbeds to purposely infect others? This is getting more insane every day.

  7. Roger and Nathanial, you are wasting your intellectual and logical breath in responding to these folks. You can’t win against “it’s un-American” and “Dr. Fauci conspired with the Chinese to invent the virus.” These people are not interested in truth and logic or taking care of any thing that smacks of being for the common good. They are rugged individualists who have achieved all they have without any help from the government, but indeed, in spite of the government. They are only interested in being right about anyone on the Left being an un-American pro communistic tyrant with clandestine motives around this pandemic. The pandemic does not exist in their minds and it never will; or it is just a case of the bad sniffles that has little affect on our over all health system. They are also the same folks who will demand to be treated in emergency just like the rest of us for any of their needs, Covid 19 or otherwise. I’d have a little more respect for them if they insisted on staying home for a miracle cure and not bothering those government paid Emergency folks when they are in dire need of real help. It’s just ideology and hypocrisy and should pretty much be ignored as much as possible when dealing with a scientific problem, such as this pandemic, that infects and sometimes kills without concern for the political party affiliation or world view of it’s host.

  8. Oh, you’re right Clint, as usual. Sometimes I get puffed up with myself, believing my words might trigger a moment of reflection in someone heading down a dangerous path; quite naive of me. But we’re living in an age when people can believe whatever they want to believe, no matter what the facts are~ and they can go on the internet and find words to reinforce that belief, no matter how foolish or deadly it is (“I want to get the Delta virus because then I’ll be immunized better than a vaccine!”)

  9. This is officially the most ignorant, hate mongering jibberish I’ve ever seen. I fully expect the backhoes to start digging graves in our streets. It wouldn’t be the first time the general population has picked an enemy of the people. I never thought I would see the day that free information would be censored to the point that mindless sheeple would hope for the death of others. We’re officially there.
    Don’t post this, it makes me ill even writing it.

Comments are closed.