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UW Medicine reports 97% staff vaccination rate two weeks ahead of state deadline, 300 employees request exemptions

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UW Medicine announced Tuesday that 97% of its faculty and staff are now fully vaccinated. With two weeks remaining for Washington state health care workers to show proof of full vaccination, Monday was the last day for unvaccinated workers to receive a Johnson & Johnson shot in time for the deadline.

Per state guidelines, health care workers and state employees who are not fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 will have to resign, raising staffing concerns for hospitals around the state. 

Lisa Brandenburg, the chief health system officer for UW Medicine hospitals and clinics, said that approximately 300 UW Medicine employees have requested medical or religious exemptions, and “approximately one-third of the group of 300 employees have met the criteria and will be accommodated for a vaccine exemption.”

“We continue to have conversations with our employees about the exemption process and the criteria,” Brandenburg said. “We're having one-on-one conversations with staff who are interested about the process and have vaccine questions.” 

Anticipating potential staff losses, Brandenburg said UW Medicine has “plans in place to mitigate those staffing challenges” and will know more details following the deadline.

UW Medicine is currently operating under contingency status, meaning some non-urgent surgeries and procedures are being canceled and rescheduled based on staffing and capacity constraints.

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“Hospitals across the state and in the UW Medicine system are full,” Brandenburg said.

However, Brandenburg said UW Medicine has “recently seen a decrease in the COVID-19 cases,” which mirrors the recent decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide.

To maintain hospital capacities, Brandenburg encouraged members of the community to get vaccinated and continue to follow masking guidelines.

“If you're not vaccinated, please get vaccinated and support vaccination, support masking mandates and wear a mask yourself, and avoid large crowds and large indoor settings,” Brandenburg said. “We think that with these measures, we can reduce future COVID-19 surges. And it's really critical. We need everyone's help to make this happen.”

Reach Co-News Editor Annie Denton at Twitter: @anniesdenton

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Annie Denton (she/her) is a sophomore studying computer science at UW and serves as The Daily’s News Editor.

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