Washington’s new secretary of state mandates vaccines

<p><p>Associated Press</p></p><p><p>OLYMPIA – In one of his first acts as Washington secretary of state, Democrat Steve Hobbs has told his some 300 staff to become vaccinated against COVID-19 by Feb. 25, or face losing their jobs.</p></p><p><p>Under the previous secretary of state, Republican Kim Wyman, her office was the only statewide office that did not impose a vaccine requirement after Gov. Jay Inslee announced his mandate for state employees, health care workers and educators last summer.</p></p><p><p>“I am confident that this will help protect the employees of this office, as well as the citizens that we serve,” Hobbs <a href=”https://www.kuow.org/stories/reversing-predecessor-washington-s-new-secretary-of-state-mandates-vaccines”>told</a> the Northwest News Network and other media outlets.</p></p><p><p>Inslee appointed former longtime lawmaker Hobbs as secretary of state in November after Wyman said she was resigning to take a top election security post with the Biden administration.</p></p><p><p>The secretary of state’s office estimates that more than 200 of its employees, or about 70%, have been vaccinated.</p></p><p><p>Hobbs said his office is adopting Inslee’s vaccine policy which allows employees to seek an exemption and accommodation to continue working.</p></p><p><p>The secretary of state’s office operates 27 locations and is responsible for elections, corporation and nonprofit registrations and operation of the state archives and library.</p></p><p><p>In an interview last fall, Wyman – Washington’s only Republican statewide officeholder – defended her decision not to require vaccines, although she was vaccinated.</p></p><p><p>“I wasn’t willing to fire someone who, for whatever reason, didn’t want to share with me their vaccination status,” Wyman said.</p></p><p><p>Asked how Hobbs would respond to a staff member who doesn’t want to get vaccinated, Hobbs held firm: “Being fully vaccinated brings you greater protections, even if you were to get infected by omicron.”</p></p><p><p>For now, booster shots for secretary of state staff will not be required.</p></p><p><p>Among state employees covered by Inslee’s mandate, about 3% – or just over 2,000 – left their jobs or were terminated because they did not want to get vaccinated, according to the state Office of Financial Management.</p></p>