Gov. Inslee blames COVID for health care worker shortage, not vaccine mandate

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Gov. Jay Inslee says he doesn’t think the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate is the reason hospitals are seeing a shortage.

The real culprit, he says, is the virus itself.

Inslee says he’s heard from hospital leaders they want people to get the shot. That’s because one of the problems is staff getting COVID and not being able to work, he says. Some of the workers who aren’t sick and are just exposed have to quarantine and that’s putting a strain on the health care system, according to Inslee.

Inslee says the best way to stop all of that is to get vaccinated.

“It’s the COVID virus that’s hallowing out these hospitals. And every hospital administrator will tell you that,” Inslee said.

When asked Thursday during a press conference if he anticipates losing more health care workers because of the mandate he said “no.”

“We believe that at the end of the day, the vast vast majority of people who have gone into public service, people who have gone into healthcare, people who have gone into education, will have a conversation with their family and conclude that if you really look at the medical science. This is a healthy thing to do,” Inslee said. “And not lose a career. We want these people to stay. Look, these people are valuable to us.”

Earlier this week, Inslee wrote a letter to the federal government asking for help as the state battles COVID-19 hospitalizations. Inslee asked Jeffrey Zients, the White House COVID-19 coordinator, for 1,200 clinical and non-clinical workers to help with staffing at hospitals and long-term care facilities. You can read the full letter here.

When asked if he took into account the possibility of losing some of the workforce because of the mandate when he requested the federal support he also said “no.”

He says there was already a staffing concern before that because so many people in health care got COVID.

Anyone required to get vaccinated under the mandate must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18.

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