Gov. Jay Inslee was right to require teachers and other staff at the state’s schools and colleges to be fully vaccinated against coronavirus or risk losing their jobs. The bold, unequivocal order, with the force of law, applies to teachers, administrators, janitors and, yes, university football coaches, who must comply by Oct. 18.
The governor’s order, announced Wednesday, is another shield to protect our children, while ensuring most are able to return to full-time, in-person learning. The requirementwill help minimize students’ exposure to the deadly Delta variant as schools open next month.
Additionally, as another nod to the Delta threat, the governor once again required even vaccinated people to don masks in public indoor places after a few weeks of freedom. All people over age 5 must now wear masks.
The governor’s unambiguous directives add layers of protection to school screening, cleaning and distancing protocols. Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal requested the vaccine mandate for schools earlier this month. In Wednesday’s press conference, he said, the move is good for student learning and families: “Opening schools is important. It matters to learning, it matters to our economy, it matters to families.”
The order extends an earlier vaccination mandate for state employees to about 200,000 teachers, bus drivers, coaches, contractors and other staff in public and private K-12 schools, child care and early learning centers, colleges and universities. It rightly relieves local school boards and administrators from having to make complex public-health decisions — in the face of sometimes heated backlash from sharply divided school communities. It will ensure every Washington student has equal access to safe learning environments, especially children too young to get the shot.
The vaccination requirement is one of the strictest of any state in the nation, Seattle Times reporter Jim Brunner reported. Disappointingly, critics like state Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, argue that the governor should have taken a more “collaborative, compassionate and inclusive outreach campaign to persuade people to get the vaccine.”
But months of cajoling, bribes and lottery gimmicks haven’t persuaded enough reluctant vaccinators to look out for the rest of us. Washington State University football coach Nick Rolovich, for example, refused to vaccinate for an undisclosed reason, citing neither a legitimate medical or religious reason, which are allowed under Inslee’s latest order.
Thanks to leadership of Inlsee, Reykdal and public health experts, Rolovich is now convinced. He told reporters Thursday that he plans to comply with the governor’s order.
The estimated tens of thousands of teachers, coaches and other staff as-yet unvaccinated should quickly follow suit.