Bellingham lost 27 city employees because of COVID-19 vaccination mandates from Mayor Seth Fleetwood and Gov. Jay Inslee, according to data shared with city employees Monday, Dec. 6.
Biggest losses were in the Public Works, Police and Fire departments, according to a chart attached to Fleetwood’s emailed message to the city’s 924 employees.
Six employees resigned rather than get vaccinated, 17 were dismissed for violating the city’s new terms of employment that require vaccination against COVID-19, and four were dismissed for violating Inslee’s vaccination order for state employees, teachers and health care workers such as firefighters.
“The decision I made to require vaccinations as a condition of employment was not a decision I made lightly,” Fleetwood said in his letter.
Fleetwood briefed the City Council on employees’ vaccination status at its Monday night session.
The city of Bellingham was sixth among Whatcom County’s top 10 employers in 2020, according to a report from Western Washington University’s Center of Economic and Business Research.
“I considered a range of views and was asked by some to reconsider. I returned time and again to my confident belief that requiring vaccinations will help improve public health and inspire other organizations to implement similar measures,” Fleetwood said.
Vaccination against COVID-19 is the best step that anyone can take to protect themselves from the most serious effects of the disease and keep it from spreading, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nationwide hospital data shows that unvaccinated people are suffering the most serious effects of COVID-19, including hospitalizations and death.
More than 50 U.S. health care organizations urge vaccine mandates for all health care workers, including the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, according to information compiled by the American College of Surgeons.
Vaccine mandates have been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in cases dating to 1905.
“I believe in our institutions and trust authorities on this topic, and I trust their conclusions that vaccines are safe and effective and are the method by which we will move beyond this pandemic and all the disruption and chaos it has wrought,” Fleetwood said.
Friday, Dec. 3, was the deadline to provide proof of full vaccination or request an accommodation for health, religious, or other reasons.
Nearly 98% of Bellingham employees are now fully or partially vaccinated, according to a chart that Fleetwood attached to his letter.
Bellingham workers who aren’t vaccinated, slightly more than 2%, are those who received accommodations for health or religious reasons, or those who are on leave and haven’t shared their vaccination status.
Of the 27 employees no longer working with the city:
▪ Twelve left the Public Works Department, which has 221 employees. That includes two who resigned, eight who were dismissed because of the city’s mandate, and two who were dismissed because of the state mandate.
▪ Eight were dismissed from the Police Department, which has 170 employees.
▪ Four left the Fire Department, which has 188 employees, including two who resigned and two who lost their jobs because of the governor’s mandate.
Police and Fire have the lowest overall vaccination rates of any city department, at 94% and 95%.
Eleven of 15 city departments have 100% vaccination rates, including the City Council, Fleetwood and his administrative staff.