With the Governor lifting the COVID-19 state of emergency on Oct. 31, many members are wondering what this means to them. Some measures will continue while we’re still in a federal public health emergency, which was recently extended through Jan. 11, 2023, and may be extended again after that. Other measures are ending with the removal of Washington’s state of emergency. This is what we know so far.
During the state of emergency, out-of-state RNs were authorized to practice in Washington without a Washington state license. That will end as of October 31. In addition, new graduate RNs and ARNPs will no longer be able to receive emergency interim permits authorizing them to practice prior to passing NCLEX or national certification examinations. For additional information, contact NCQAC.
Currently, nurses and other health care workers who contract COVID are presumed to have acquired it on the job—in other words, they are presumed eligible for workers’ compensation. This applies during a declared public health emergency. Although Washington’s state of emergency ends on October 31, presumptive workers’ compensation coverage for getting COVID or quarantine due to COVID-19 will remain in effect for the time being because the federal public health emergency continues.
In accordance with state law (RCW 70.41.425), the Department of Health suspended investigation of staffing complaints during the state of emergency. This suspension will continue while the federal public health emergency remains in effect.
The state mandate for healthcare workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will end as of October 31. However, the Governor’s announcement of the end of the state of emergency made clear that “employers will continue to be able to require them if they choose.”
Where employers attempt to impose an ongoing mandate, WSNA will assert our right to negotiate any employer COVID-19-related policies that impact the working conditions of our members. This includes protections negotiated by WSNA in agreements around the state, some of which expire once the state of emergency is lifted. Fair policies should include equitable access to boosters, reasonable timelines for meeting any vaccination/booster requirements, pay for absences due to side effects or for quarantine, and individual workers’ right to opt out for medical reasons or strongly held religious beliefs.
WSNA supports science-based public health guidance on COVID-19 vaccination and booster shots. We stand firmly behind COVID-19 vaccination and booster shots as a key strategy in saving the lives of patients, family members, and other members of our communities. Vaccines and booster shots have helped to dramatically reduce the number of patients hospitalized for COVID—including frontline healthcare workers.
While WSNA applauds signs that the pandemic is waning, we know that COVID-19 remains a threat to the public’s health. We will continue to advocate for measures that protect nurses, patients, and our communities. We will also continue to monitor any changes resulting from the end of the state of emergency and keep our members informed.
If you are represented by WSNA for collective bargaining, contact your nurse representative for more information on the items listed above.
November 17, 2022