We are now experiencing what the Governor and our state’s Department of Health are calling the “fifth wave” of COVID-19. As has happened across the nation, the highly contagious Delta variant is causing positive case counts to spike in our state. So much so, the Centers for Disease Control and Governor Inslee are now recommending that even those who are vaccinated resume wearing masks in public places.
The Department of Defense is taking it one step further. To slow the spread of the Delta variant and prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed, the DoD issued a memo last week that now requires all Service members, Federal employees, onsite contractor employees and visitors – regardless of your vaccination status – to wear a mask in an indoor setting in installations and other facilities owned, leased or otherwise controlled by DoD.
I’ll keep this simple: our federal employees, vaccinated or not, must wear a mask in all areas of our facilities, the only exception being a private office or the outdoors. This means if you walk down the hall to fill up your water bottle – put a mask on. If you head to the break room to grab your lunch – wear your mask. If you attend an in-person meeting with other colleagues – a mask is required. If you are feeling ill, do not come to work. This message needs to be sent to our traditional Guardsmen, as well, especially before drill.
While the mask wearing requirement does not apply to our vaccinated state employees – again, the CDC and governor recommend everyone follow this guidance and just wear a mask while indoors.
Please don’t take this DoD decision as an indication the vaccine doesn’t work. A recent study has shown that the current vaccines are keeping 99.99% of vaccinated people from becoming ill enough to seek hospitalization. Our hospitals are without question the center of gravity for our pandemic response. Currently, hospitals are reporting the vast majority of those who are hospitalized – nearly 99 percent – are unvaccinated against COVID-19 and they are now filling our hospitals. You only need to look at the hard data provided by our healthcare system to see that the vaccine is preventing severe disease and death.
Additionally, the President announced last week that all federal employees will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine or be subject to frequent COVID tests. We are awaiting further guidance on processes and procedures, and whether our AGRs fall under this requirement. As soon as we receive it – we will pass that along to you. For state employees, a vaccine requirement is being examined and I’ll keep you posted if anything develops.
I appreciate your patience as we continue to navigate this pandemic and the ever-changing guidance and requirements. I’m hopeful this is a temporary roll-back. It will be as long as we all continue to do our part to slow the spread among those who are unvaccinated.
Bret D. Daugherty
Major GeneralThe Adjutant General