Mayor rescinds vaccine requirement

Order removing vaccine requirement is effective tonight, February 13, 2023

February 13, 2023 - by Janice Keller, Communications Director

Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood announced tonight that he is lifting his executive order requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for City of Bellingham employees, volunteers and on-site indoor contractors, effective tonight (February 13, 2023).

Fleetwood’s removal of the requirement, by executive order, is similar to steps recently taken by other federal, state and local government leaders who had requirements in place and is consistent with public health guidance.

The vaccination order, enacted in September 2021, is rescinded effective at 11:59 p.m. Monday, February 13, 2023. It is the last remaining COVID-19 order to be removed and follows Fleetwood’s action last fall to lift his proclamation of local COVID emergency.

Fleetwood said that throughout the pandemic, he has worked closely with public health officials and relied on their recommendations and expertise to make decisions to protect public health and safety. Requiring all City employees, volunteers and indoor on-site contractors to show proof they had received the initial COVID-19 vaccination series was enacted as a critical public health protection measure in fall 2021, when COVID-19 cases were rising sharply in Bellingham and Whatcom County. As Fleetwood noted at that time: “We are facing the worst pandemic in modern history. Our hospitals are filling, we are experiencing record numbers of illnesses and rising deaths, and now cases are increasing in our schools. It is clear our return to normalcy requires firm action on all our parts.”

Fleetwood said that, prior to taking action to lift the vaccine requirement, he wished to determine if there would be a surge of winter cases in 2022-2023. Consulting with public health experts and reviewing the data in recent months, he said, has shown there are lower levels of community spread and lower levels of COVID-related hospitalizations this winter, as compared to the past two winters. Cases, hospitalizations and deaths have not surged during the winter of 2022-23.

“At every step in addressing the pandemic, we sought recommendations from public health officials, followed the science and the data, and took thoughtful, measured steps to protect public health,” he said. “Due to concerted efforts regarding testing, vaccination, isolation and quarantine, this remaining requirement can be relaxed. COVID-19 is becoming endemic, meaning that it is no longer causing significant disruption in our daily lives such as overwhelming our hospitals and closing down schools and businesses.”

“We continue to strongly advocate for vaccination and other health safeguards,” he said. “A successful full recovery requires continued attention as we learn to live with and adapt our behaviors to the presence of the COVID-19 virus. Staying up to date with vaccination is supported and encouraged, as it is highly effective at reducing the risk of serious illness, hospitalization and death. We will monitor future guidance and directives from county, state, and federal government officials to determine whether any future orders are necessary to protect health and safety.”

Media Contact

Janice Keller, Communications Director or (360) 778-8100


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