King County and the City of Seattle announced this week that they have ceased requiring proof of vaccination against COVID-19 for employees, bringing closure to one of the final pandemic protections at both levels of government.
In a joint announcement, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell announced the end of the vaccine mandates, which began in October 2021, citing guidance from their Public Health departments.
“Since the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, King County’s policy has been to follow the science, listen to the experts, and protect life and health,” Constantine said in a news release. “Establishing a vaccine mandate for employees and contractors was critical to keeping employees and the public safe and keeping services flowing. Today our experts advise that immunity has reached a level that allows these requirements to be relaxed.”
Meanwhile, Governor Inslee insists that Washington State Employees remain vaccinated as a condition of employment.
Constantine also repealed the county’s emergency proclamation on Monday, bringing to an end the pandemic emergency protections in place since March 2020.
A total of 290 county employees were dismissed due to the vaccine mandate, including 103 from King County Metro and 51 from the Sheriff’s Office. The terminations, retirements, and leaves associated with the vaccine mandate disproportionately affected several departments, particularly the Seattle police and fire departments, which were already facing staffing challenges.
On Monday, the Seattle Times reported that a spokesperson for Gov. Jay Inslee said the governor currently has “no plans to modify or remove” the same mandate for state employees.