The mandatory vaccine deadline for most public employees came and went last week, and, thankfully, government was still able to function.
This wasn’t a foregone conclusion when Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Aug. 9 that he was imposing an emergency order that threatened most state workers and those in private health care with termination if they refused to be inoculated. Other elected leaders soon followed his example.
Everyone who wants to end the human suffering and economic dislocation of the pandemic should thank these officials for standing strong.
The governor’s orders sparked 42 legal challenges, all successfully blocked. Pushback persisted until the last hours — from the Seattle firefighters and police officers who dramatically left their boots at City Hall as they resigned, to Washington State University’s football coach who was forced out and then planned to sue his former employer over the vaccine.
Their voices will resonate among some and continue to fuel bad feelings. At this point, however, it is better to listen to the words of interim WSU football coach Jake Dickert.
At an introductory Zoom news conference last Tuesday, Dickert had the unenviable task of picking up the pieces of a fractured program while preparing his team for a game four days later.
The coach said his primary goal was to turn “fear, doubt and uncertainty” into “faith, trust and belief.”
It’s a message that could be applied to every public and private sector workplace coping with vaccine-related churn.
If we are to heal — not just from the disease but from all the discord it produced — we must focus on the tasks at hand, appreciate one another and rededicate ourselves to the mission, whether that’s serving as a corrections officer, front-line nurse or ferry worker.
A vaccine mandate was the correct public policy. People who are not fully vaccinated are nine times more likely to test positive, 48 times more likely to be hospitalized and 69 times more likely to die of COVID-19.
About 91% of state employees are now vaccinated as of Monday. Roughly 97% of King County and 94% of Seattle employees complied. Similar numbers are posted for college students, health care workers and others around the state.
This disease isn’t finished with us yet. There will be more controversy as private-sector mandates likely expand.
But Washington crossed an important threshold, and it’s time to look ahead with optimism.
In an important display of leadership, Dickert told us what we need to get through these turbulent times: faith, trust and belief.