Mandate from Gov. Jay Inslee requires WSU football coach Nick Rolovich to take COVID-19 vaccine or lose job

Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich's refusal to get a COVID-19 vaccine appears to be reaching an impasse. 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued a mandate Wednesday that all state employees working in an educational role from K-12 to higher education must be vaccinated by Oct. 18 or risk losing their jobs. The mandate is similar to one Inslee issued Aug. 9 for other state employees and healthcare workers.

"Just like the state worker mandate, there are limited exceptions under law which employees may apply for, including legitimate medical reasons and sincerely held religious beliefs," Inslee's statement reads. "Individuals who refuse to get vaccinated will be subject to dismissal."

Inslee clarified that this mandate includes Rolovich, who has thus far declined to be inoculated against COVID-19. Rolovich hasn't explained his decision, which forced him to miss Pac-12 media day in July as the only coach in the conference who wasn't vaccinated. 

"As the Pac-12 Conference has required that all in-person participants at next week's Pac-12 Football Media Day be fully vaccinated, I will participate remotely and look forward to talking about our football team and the incredible young men in our program," Rolovich wrote in a July 21 statement. "I have elected not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine for reasons which will remain private."

Will Rolovich take vaccine?

Rolovich didn't immediately respond to Inslee's mandate Wednesday. The Washington State athletic department did, however, while vowing "to work to ensure" that Inslee's mandate is met. 

“We applaud the efforts of Governor Inslee to protect the health and safety of the people of Washington,” the statement reads. “Washington State Athletics, including staff, coaches and student-athletes, will continue to follow all campus, local, state, Pac-12 and NCAA guidelines related to health and safety surrounding COVID-19, and we will work to ensure the mandates in the governor’s proclamation are followed.”

Does this mean that Rolovich will be vaccinated? That's unclear. While Washington State may urge Rolovich to heed the mandate, the decision ultimately lies with Rolovich. Inslee has addressed Rolovich's refusal to take a vaccine before, telling reporters that people in positions of leadership have an obligation "to save lives."

“Anybody in a leadership position in the state of Washington, I believe, has an obligation to lead and use their leadership position to save lives,” Inslee said in July, per the Associated Press. “Governors, senators, football coaches – help lead. Lead the effort to defeat COVID.”

Cougars have lowest inoculation rate in Pac-12

Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News reports that Washington's State's 80% vaccination rate among players is the lowest in the Pac-12. Seven teams in the conference have at least 90% of their players vaccinated, according to the report. 

The COVID-19 vaccine has taken on extra urgency amid the Delta variant that's responsible for a growing outbreak across the U.S. As of Wednesday, COVID-19 has claimed more than 620,000 American lives and killed more than 4.3 million worldwide, per Johns Hopkins data.

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