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Where things stand with Nick Rolovich and the Washington vaccine mandate

The Washington State head coach confirmed over the weekend he will seek a religious exemption. What happens next?

We're into the biggest stretch of Nick Rolovich's coaching career, and it has little to do with his Cougars beating Stanford on Saturday.

The Washington State head coach confirmed to Pac-12 Network's Yogi Roth over the weekend he has sought a religious exemption to Washington governor Jay Inslee's vaccine mandate for all state employees. That mandate says all employees of state institutions must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18, receive approval for an exemption, or face immediate termination.

It's no surprise that Rolovich is seeking a religious exemption. Ever since the issue came to light in July with his announcement he'd skip the Pac-12's media day because he was not vaccinated, Rolovich has said vanishingly little, only that he planned to "follow the mandate." 

As Jon Wilner reported for the San Jose Mercury-News, the Washington state government left it up to Washington State University to craft its own method for following the state mandate. The university consulted with the state's attorney general office to create a 6-question form which asks, among other things, if the applicant has taken any other FDA-approved vaccine at any point in their life and, if so, what makes the FDA-approved Pfizer vaccine different.

— Question 5: “If you have ever received a FDA authorized or approved vaccine at any time in your life, please explain how your sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance causes you to object to the COVID-19 vaccine compared to other vaccines you received.”

Here's the crucial part, the people evaluating Nick Rolovich's application won't know they're evaluating Nick Rolovich's application. From Wazzu's website:

  1. Your completed form will be sent for committee review. All personally identifiable information will be removed prior to review. Most determinations will be delivered within ten (10) business days.

If Rolovich's request is approved, his supervisor would then be notified and have to make the judgment call on if Washington State's head football coach could effectively perform his duties "while keeping the public safe." Beyond running practices and the business of managing more than 100 people on a day-to-day basis, Rolovich would have to fundraise and recruit in close quarters -- while being expected to socially distance and/or mask up.

If his request is denied, he would have the option to get vaccinated by Oct. 18. The 1-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires a 2-week incubation process to be fully vaccinated, so he would have needed to receive a shot by Oct. 4. And we know that didn't happen.

And if Rolovich's request is denied and he refuses to be vaccinated? 

From Wilner's deeply-reported piece last week: "(T)he university would begin the separation process."

According to the Seattle Times, the state of Washington fielded 3,891 exemption requests as of Sept. 6; 737 had their requests approved, but only seven had accommodations made to keep their jobs.