by Dow Constantine, King County Executive
I know we are all eager for this pandemic to be over so we can get back to the things we love doing without restrictions or anxiety. However, COVID-19 is a novel foe, and it continues to adapt, evolve, and thwart our efforts to return to engaging with others safely. As such, we need to adapt and evolve if we are to defeat it.
Following the actions of many other public and private employers, King County will now require all employees to be fully vaccinated, effective Oct. 18, 2021. To meet this requirement, employees must have received their second shot of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or first shot of a Johnson & Johnson vaccine, by Oct. 4, 2021, and provide verified proof of vaccination. The directive applies to employees in the Executive branch (employees who report to the Assessor, Elections Director, the Sheriff, and me, the County Executive).
At the end of June we were experiencing about 55 new cases per day in King County. Today the number is nearing 400. The Delta variant is estimated to be responsible for 93% of all new infections in the U.S. It is about 50% more contagious than the previous variants, and those infected seem to get more ill more quickly. A new and potentially even more dangerous variant – Lambda – is now emerging, though it has not yet been identified locally.
Nationally, about 97% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Vaccines have been shown to be safe and highly effective at preventing COVID-19 infection and in limiting hospitalization and death, even when there are “breakthrough” infections. This is also the case with the Delta variant.
Unfortunately, in many places across the country vaccination rates are low. Variants are more likely to develop when disease is widespread, so more COVID-19 variants are likely to come. Moreover, children under 12 are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. People with cancer or those who are immune compromised are at risk. The threat of even more harmful variants emerging is increasing. The key to ending the pandemic is for as many people as possible to be fully vaccinated.
As government employees, many of us work directly with the public. We have an obligation to keep our customers safe. We also want our colleagues to be as safe as possible. The need for our services remains as urgent as ever during the pandemic, essential for the people we serve. Our work needs to go on. Full vaccination is the answer.
Over the next week, we will be engaging with our labor partners and will share additional information on this vaccination requirement and its implementation. If you haven’t already been vaccinated, you can find out where to get your shot and find answers to your questions at www.kingcounty.gov/vaccine.
Lastly, I want to thank the many employees who are fully vaccinated and have provided verified proof of vaccination. You are doing your part to help end this pandemic.
Please take care, follow the latest CDC and local guidance, and wear masks when in public spaces and engaging the public. We will get through this together.
Dow Constantine (he/him/his)
King County Executive