OLYMPIA, Wash. — Tony Garcia says he is prepared to leave a job he loves over Washington state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The 15-year veteran of the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) is one of more than 62,000 state employees required to prove they are fully vaccinated against the virus by Oct. 18.
Oct. 4 was the last day employees could get vaccinated with the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be considered fully vaccinated by the deadline.
Garcia admitted he thought about getting the vaccine to save his job, but changed his mind.
“I prayed about it,” said Garcia, “I’m 100% confident, not a worry, not a care. At the end of the day, I’ll come out on top.”
Garcia applied for a religious exemption, which was approved by the state. However, since DSHS is unable to make accommodations to place Garcia in a non-public position, he will no longer be able to work for the state after Oct. 18.
DSHS spokesperson Adolfo Capestany said more than 90% of DSHS employees have shown proof of their COVID-19 vaccination.
He said that number increases by the hour, but said the state is making plans on losing employees later this month.
"Every state agency is in this situation," said Capestany, "We don’t know what the number is going to be."
A Department of Transportation spokesperson said that agency estimates a vaccination rate of more than 90% as well.