Washington state refuses help from unvaccinated county workers to clear snow affecting supply chain – Fox News

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The Washington State Department of Transportation denied help from one county to clean up a “freak winter storm” because it does not mandate employee vaccinations. 
“Washington State informed Kittitas County they could not accept this assistance due to Kittitas County not mandating the COVID-19 vaccination for County employees. The Kittitas County Board of Commissioners is extremely disappointed with the States’ position to refuse assistance,” a press release from Kittitas County on Wednesday states. 
The county received significant snowfall over Jan. 5 and 6, which was described as a “freak winter storm” by local outlet KHQ. The storm forced the Snoqualmie Pass to close for over 90 hours and some supply chain issues were subsequently reported, according to the outlet. 
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The county offered assistance to the Washington State Department of Transportation to clean up state roads on Jan. 11 but was subsequently denied over lack of vaccine mandate. 
Empty road with snow covered landscape in winter season (iStock)
“This county is ready, as always, to put all hands on deck to solve this problem. It’s time for logic and leadership to overcome ideology and allow skilled equipment operators working alone in their cabs to get this job done,” Kittitas County Commissioner Cory Wright said in the press release.  
All Washington state employees were required to be fully vaccinated or face termination in mid-October. This resulted in 48 state employees no longer working on a maintenance and snow removal team in Kittitas County, the county said in the press release. 
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In November, the county “signed an interlocal agreement with the Washington State Department of Transportation. WSDOT requested this agreement based on an identified need for additional resources caused by reduced staffing.” 
But instead of using the county workers, the state hired a private contractor to clear the snow. 
“On Tuesday Jan. 11, Kittitas County Public Works reached out about clearing State Route 903 near the small town of Ronald in unincorporated Kittitas County. County crews informed WSDOT they could not meet the vaccination declaration required of all interlocal agreements and contracts with Washington state agencies,” WSDOT said in a statement posted to its Twitter account Wednesday evening. 
“WSDOT secured a private contractor to clear the roadway with work beginning Wednesday morning,” the state agency added in its press release. 
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, joined by King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, holds a press conference to provide details on a temporary statewide shutdown of restaurants, bars, entertainment and recreational facilities to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on March 16, 2020, in Seattle, Washington.  ((Elaine Thompson – Pool/Getty Images))
A representative for Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s office told Fox News that the county’s statement “omits a lot of necessary context.”
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“By the time the county reached out, the specific highway they were inquiring about was already open. Their inquiry was about widening the clearing that had already been done,” a spokesperson for the governor’s office said. The spokesperson added that Snoqualmie Pass had already been opened by the time Kittitas County offered to help, adding that the pass was not an area of road the county offered to clear. 
“Public safety was never put at risk, and it wasn’t plowed sooner because we weren’t going to put workers in unsafe weather conditions either. The state ultimately contracted with an employer who can guarantee a vaccinated workforce, which helps protect communities from a deadly disease.” 
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This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2022 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. Quotes displayed in real-time or delayed by at least 15 minutes. Market data provided by Factset. Powered and implemented by FactSet Digital Solutions. Legal Statement. Mutual Fund and ETF data provided by Refinitiv Lipper.

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