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Could Washington State coach Nick Rolovich really be putting his job at risk by not getting a COVID-19 vaccination?
It's a question worth pondering as the days count down to the state of Washington's vaccine mandate on Oct. 18. All state employees must be fully vaccinated by that date. And according to Washington State president Kirk Schulz, Rolovich hasn't gotten a shot yet.
Shulz referenced Rolovich at a faculty senate meeting on Thursday. PullmanRadio.com obtained audio of his remarks during that meeting. At first, Schulz declines to name Rolovich before he makes it clear that he's referring to the second-year football coach.
"The major elephant in the room, the thing that’s gotten the Seattle Times all excited is the one individual who is in a very prominent position that up until this date has not been vaccinated and has not talked to the media much about where that is," Schulz said. "I just remind everybody, regardless of what the person makes, what position they have, we have to treat people the same. And there’s a lot of, ‘Well you oughta terminate somebody.’ Well, am I willing to terminate a faculty member for the same decision, am I willing to terminate a staff member for the same decision? So aside from the emotions of that we’ve had to work really hard to not say a lot and I understand the angst that’s out there over Coach Rolovich’s decision, and at the same time I’ve tried to remind everybody the community has done a fantastic job of vaccination."
Schulz then also said that no one at Washington State would be getting a "free pass" when it came to the vaccination mandate.
"Let me be clear, there’s no free pass for anybody. Whether it’s coach, the president, it doesn’t matter. Everybody that’s a state employee has got to comply either by being vaccinated or filling out and getting an approved exemption. There’s no option B. So just so anybody knows, no one’s getting a free pass here because of who they are or what job they do."
Rolovich's shot options may be dwindling
If Rolovich has not gotten the first dose of a two-dose vaccine yet he is only able to take the Johnson & Johnson single-dose COVID-19 vaccine to comply with the state mandate by the deadline.
The Oct. 18 deadline means fully vaccinated — not the date of the last shot in a two-dose vaccine. The state is defining individuals as fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose, meaning that second shot must be done by Oct. 4. And with three weeks between doses for the Pfizer shots and four weeks between doses for the Moderna vaccine, Rolovich would be unable to get either of those vaccines by Oct. 4.
He could also get a medical or religious exemption from the vaccine mandate, but those exemptions are fairly narrow. According to the state of Washington, any employee who isn't vaccinated by the deadline or isn't granted an exemption "will be subject to non-disciplinary dismissal from employment for failing to meet the qualifications of the job."
Rolovich still mum on vaccination status
Rolovich has repeatedly said that he would comply with the state's mandate though he hasn't revealed how he would be complying with it. He also repeatedly refuses to talk about his vaccination status or his reasons for delaying vaccination and says it's a private matter.
The coach's vaccination status was first known over the summer when Rolovich revealed that he would be unable to attend Pac-12 media day in person because he wasn't vaccinated. Now that Washington is mandating the vaccine for state employees, reporters have asked Rolovich about his vaccination status on a frequent basis and he still refuses to talk about it.
Earlier this week Rolovich said (via the Spokesman-Review) that he was "here to coach football and deal with football issues in the majority of my stuff and there’s part of me that feels that some things should be private still.”
It will be, however, nearly impossible to keep Rolovich's vaccination status private in the coming weeks and months given the looming deadline.