OLYMPIA — The Washington State Patrol said Wednesday that 93% of its employees have been vaccinated against COVID-19 under Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate for state workers.
That’s a striking turnaround for an agency that recently lagged behind other state agencies in vaccination rates as part of Inslee’s order that Washington employees get their shots or lose their jobs on Oct. 18.
In order to be fully vaccinated by that date, most workers needed to get their final shot on Monday.
Of the State Patrol’s approximately 2,200 employees, 152 workers haven’t submitted paperwork to show they are vaccinated, agency spokesperson Chris Loftis said Wednesday.
The 93% rate is “almost double since three or four weeks ago,” he said.
Of those who didn’t submit vaccination information, 91 are commissioned officers and 61 are civil servants, he said. The vaccination rate could rise, he added, as employees still have until Oct. 18 to show that they are vaccinated.
The new figures are a sharp rise from data released last week showing the State Patrol’s vaccination rate as of Sept. 20 at a shade under 63%.
Since Inslee issued the order — one of the strictest in the nation, with no option for regular testing of those who forego the shots — state employees have protested, filed lawsuits and sought exemptions to avoid the vaccines.
Some of that resistance came from State Patrol members, dozens of whom signed on to one lawsuit. Meanwhile, the union representing troopers promoted a demonstration at the state Capitol where a range of public-sector workers and others opposed the governor’s mandate.
Wednesday’s numbers were likely to ease concerns about how the State Patrol would manage operations should mass firings result in a significant shortage of workers.
In an email, Inslee spokesperson Tara Lee wrote that the increase in the State Patrol’s vaccination rate, “shows the vaccine mandate is working.”
“We are greatly encouraged by rising numbers across state agencies,” Lee added. “And, are very glad that state employees are choosing to get vaccinated and remain in the workforce. We believe the verified numbers will continue to go up as we get closer to the deadline.”
Meanwhile, vaccination tallies for the two largest local police departments in Washington showed that more than three-quarters of King County Sheriff’s Office employees had been fully vaccinated, and the numbers of Seattle police officers who haven’t provided vaccination proof is starting to dwindle.
Of the 1,100 sheriff’s employees, 833 had shown proof of vaccination as of Wednesday, according to King County Executive Dow Constantine’s office. Another 267 sheriff’s employees had yet to provide vaccination proof, with 95 of them requesting exemptions.
The number of Seattle police officers who have yet to turn in required vaccination proof fell below 300, according to the department’s latest counts as of Wednesday.
In all, 292 Seattle sworn officers — or 27% of all cops available to respond to calls in the city — still need to verify they’ve been fully vaccinated before the Oct. 18 deadline for city employees to do so.
But at least 111 officers who the Seattle Police Department has tallied among the 73% of officers categorized as having “submitted” vaccination records are seeking exemptions from the city’s vaccination mandate, department spokesman Sgt. Randy Huserik said Wednesday.
The latest counts indicate an additional 62 officers have submitted records since Tuesday, when SPD for the first time publicly acknowledged specific numbers for how many of its officers hadn’t yet provided vaccination proof under a city mandate.
In August, Mayor Jenny Durkan issued a directive requiring city employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18. Because vaccinations take two weeks to attain their peak efficacy, city employees needed to receive their second shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, by Oct. 4, according to Durkan’s office.
The latest figures, updated on the department’s website on Wednesday afternoon, show 782 sworn officers, or 73%, had submitted vaccination records, including the 111 officers seeking exemptions.
Nearly all of SPD’s civilian police employees (98%) have submitted records, the figures show. Huserik said he didn’t readily know how many civilians are seeking exemptions.
Seattle police commanders, during a meeting to discuss staffing contingencies on Tuesday, were presented with numbers showing that 354 officers — or a full one-third of all officers in service — had yet to submit vaccination records.
In the event of staffing shortages due to officers who don’t meet the vaccination deadline, the department plans to deploy detectives and other officers in specialty assignments to help cover 911 calls, according to sources familiar with Tuesday’s meeting.
The Seattle Police Officers Guild, in a message sent to rank-and-file officers on Wednesday, noted the department would be sending out “at risk of separation letters” to officers who have not uploaded their vaccine verifications.
“The letter identifies your options, should you not be vaccinated or submit proof of vaccine by October 18th, 2021,” according to the message, a copy of which was obtained by The Seattle Times.
The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.