It appeared like perhaps Gov. Jay Inslee was having second ideas about his COVID-19 vaccine mandate that resulted within the lack of greater than 400 Washington State Division of Transportation (WSDOT) workers.
A throwaway line at a press convention hinted on the risk.
“We’ve had challenges with snowplow drivers,” Inslee mentioned at a Wednesday afternoon digital press conference on the state Capitol discussing the most recent developments in Washington state’s ongoing response to the pandemic.
Inslee spokesperson Tara Lee threw chilly water on the notion the governor was reconsidering the vaccine mandate pertaining to snowplow drivers.
“No, he’s not reassessing his place,” she mentioned in an e-mail response to The Heart Sq.. “The problem of snowplow drivers has been one which different states and jurisdictions are coping with as effectively.”
A number of states have reported a dearth of snowplow drivers as a result of ongoing labor scarcity and considerations in regards to the pandemic, together with the extra contagious however seemingly much less virulent omicron variant of the virus.
“Everybody’s type of competing for a similar body of workers and personal firms can typically supply larger salaries than the state authorities,” Barbara LaBoe, WSDOT spokesperson, told the Related Press in December.
In November, WSDOT Communications Director Kris Rietmann Abrudan informed The Center Square a scarcity of staff was already affecting the company.
“Our staffing challenges are complicated. WSDOT had them earlier than the mandate and whereas the mandate was a contributing issue, it was definitely not the one one,” she mentioned. “In comparison with Nov. 15, 2019 – a extra typical pre-pandemic winter – we had been down 142 positions as of Oct. 1, 2021. After the Oct. 18 mandate one other 151 employees in these positions separated or retired from the company for a complete of 293 fewer winter ops positions stuffed in comparison with a typical winter.”
At about the identical time, a WSDOT presentation to legislative employees indicated that winter vacationers ought to anticipate longer highway closures as a consequence of storms and avalanches as a result of the company wouldn’t present its ordinary degree of service.
Regardless of these challenges, Lee indicated that Inslee’s place on the problem is stable.
“His earlier statements on the problem stand and his remark [Wednesday] was not an admission of any form,” she mentioned.
Up to now, Inslee has dismissed considerations about important disruptions in state companies as a result of vaccine mandate.
“I’m assured that state companies, well being care, and academic instruction and companies will proceed with minimal disruption,” Inslee mentioned in a written statement on October 18.
Per week earlier, Inslee made the same prediction.
“The state has been diligent within the contingency planning for situations after the October 18 vaccination deadline,” the governor said. “The sky-high vaccination charges we’re seeing ought to settle any considerations. There won’t be large disruptions in state companies.”
On Thursday morning, WSDOT introduced all three cross-state mountain passes – Snoqualmie Move, Stevens Move and White Move – had been closed as a consequence of harmful climate situations.