College employees in Washington state must be vaccinated against the coronavirus, Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, announced this week.
The mandate affects faculty, staff and contractors. By Oct. 18, they must be fully vaccinated, which means two weeks have passed after receiving the one-shot Johson & Johnson vaccine or the second dose of the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
Despite the threat of the highly infectious delta variant, some Republican-led states have moved to block vaccine and mask mandates.
Policymakers in several red states, including Florida and Texas, have established rules that curtail colleges' ability to enforce coronavirus mitigation strategies, citing personal freedoms.
Colleges have tried to navigate these state-level restrictions as they plan for the fall, which the rapidly spreading delta strain has complicated.
Inslee's action instead represents a governor doubling down on health and safety measures, and it's one of the strictest state-level mandates in the U.S. It is wide-reaching, affecting even such employees as college athletic coaches. This fact has drawn widespread attention, as the head football coach of Washington State University, Nick Rolovich, initially declined to get the shot, citing private reasons. But Rolovich, a prominent official in college athletics, told reporters Thursday he intended to follow Inslee's mandate.
The American College Health Association has called on colleges to mandate the vaccine for students this fall, where state policy allows. The association, along with dozens of higher education groups, also released a statement calling out legislators who attempt to limit mitigation tools, saying the "restrictions undermine the ability of all organizations, including colleges and universities, to operate safely and fully at a time of tremendous unpredictability."
In addition to requiring the shots among college employees, those working in Washington's K-12 schools will also have to be vaccinated, the governor said this week.
Inslee also announced a statewide masking policy dictating that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, must wear face coverings in most indoor public settings beginning Monday. The state's health department recommended individuals wear masks in crowded outdoor places