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'If you believe conspiracy theories about vaccines' this week in politics is for you

The city of Seattle, King County, and Washington state have issued Covid-19 vaccination mandates for public employees to get vaccinated or face possible termination.

Many people affected are complying, but not everyone. And that means things could get awkward.

A website called “SPD United” has been created and is urging Seattle Police Department to "band together in our stance for freewill, personal choice, medical freedoms and consent without coercion, retaliation, harassment, disciplinary action, or termination" by refusing to disclose their vaccination status.

"This is not about being pro-vaccine or anti-vaccine," the anonymous person or group claims. "This is about you having a choice."

The site also offers a downloadable flyer urging people not to comply with the mandate.

But is this really representative of how the majority of police officers actually feel? KUOW politics reporter David Hyde doesn't think so.

"If you got vaccinated, would you want the cop next to you in the squad to be unvaccinated?" he argues.

"I know some people have concerns about retention in the city, but perhaps there’s a plus side in this instance. If you believe conspiracy theories about vaccines without any evidence, does the city really want to issue you a badge and a gun? Does the city really want you working with the public?"

Mike Solan, president of the Seattle Police Officers guild, has said some officers simply won't comply and will have to be terminated.

caption: A sign that reads "no shirt, no shoes, no vaccine, no entry" is posted outside Linda's Tavern on Capitol Hill, Monday, August 2, as they and many other area bars and restaurants have begun requiring proof of vaccination for their patrons.
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A sign that reads "no shirt, no shoes, no vaccine, no entry" is posted outside Linda's Tavern on Capitol Hill, Monday, August 2, as they and many other area bars and restaurants have begun requiring proof of vaccination for their patrons.
Credit: Genna Martin for KUOW

Political analyst and columnist Joni Balter agrees with Hyde, though, calling the alleged movement against the vaccine mandate an "oddball campaign."

"It almost seems like a joke," she says. "All I can think is: Is someone trying to make police officers look bad in the middle of negotiations on the vaccine mandates? You wonder also: Is there secret support within the department for sabotaging the public employee vaccination effort?"

Hyde isn't buying that either. He points out mass sick-outs at Seattle City Light and the Washington state ferries didn't materialize over Labor Day weekend, despite rumors around them.

He suspects the rumors are coming from a small, vocal group of anti-vaccination activists rather than a large swath of public employees.

If the vaccine mandate opponents are sports fans, they likely weren't happy to see premier Seattle teams unveil their own vaccine requirements for spectators.

The Seattle Kraken, Seahawks, Sounds, and Storm announced this week fans would be required to show proof of vaccination to attend home games. Few exceptions could be made in some cases.

The University of Washington Huskies and Washington State Cougars will also require proof of vaccination.

The Seattle Mariners won't for now; the club has said it will — if they make the playoffs.

Of course, the requirement isn't a slam dunk for everyone.

"A few vocal fans are saying they won’t go," Hyde says. "But demand for tickets is so high I’m not sure the Seahawks or Kraken are worried about that. It just seems like a smart business decision."

There's one catch, though, he says: "As I understand it, the players will not have to follow these same rules. The NHL and the NFL, for example, are not requiring players to be vaccinated. But they will make life much more difficult for players who choose not to."

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is praising the teams for their Hail Mary pass to get shots into unvaccinated arms.

"They want the best for our community. They want to keep their fans and players safe," she says. "And I think them taking this step is a really clear signal showing that that's what people can individually do to help their community."

Balter says the teams will set the tone for getting vaccine hold-outs to join line up.

"This year, you can go to big public events if you follow some sensible rules," she says. "Come on: Wear your mask, bring proof of vaccination, and thank your lucky stars that you get to do some of these things."

And that sounds a lot better than the frozen cheers of cardboard fans.

caption: A Seattle Mariners worker places a fan cutout in a seat at the team's ballpark as part of the "Mariners Seat Fleet" in place of real fans, Monday, July 27, 2020, in Seattle. The Mariners open play at home against the Oakland Athletics on Friday.
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A Seattle Mariners worker places a fan cutout in a seat at the team's ballpark as part of the "Mariners Seat Fleet" in place of real fans, Monday, July 27, 2020, in Seattle. The Mariners open play at home against the Oakland Athletics on Friday.
Credit: (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)