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King County to require proof of vaccination or negative test for many outdoor and indoor events and establishments to address COVID-19 spread

Summary

To protect customers and workers, preserve hospital capacity and help prevent business closures, King County will require verification of full vaccination status or a negative test to enter outdoor public events of 500 or more people and indoor entertainment and recreational establishments and events such as live music, performing arts, gyms, restaurants, and bars.

Story

With continued high levels of preventable COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and increased deaths driven by the Delta variant, serious stress on our regional healthcare system, and concern for a significant outbreak resurgence this fall and winter, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan and community, health care, small business, and arts and culture partners joined in support of requiring verification of full vaccination or a negative test to enter certain indoor and outdoor activities and establishments.

A Health Order issued today by Public Health – Seattle & King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin, going into effect on October 25, will protect customers and workers through providing safer spaces, protecting our health care system, and helping prevent business closures. It will apply to:

  • Outdoor events with 500 people or more – such as professional and collegiate sports and entertainment events
  • Indoor entertainment and recreational events or establishments – such as professional and collegiate sports, entertainment, performing arts, museums, theatre, live music, gyms, and conferences/conventions.
  • Restaurants and bars (including indoor dining) – this does not apply to outdoor dining, take-out customers, and places that aren't primarily used as a restaurant, such as grocery stores.

The order gives the option for a longer preparation period for smaller restaurants and bars with a seating capacity of 12 or less, with an implementation date of December 6. The entire order is not expected to be permanent. It will be reviewed no later than six months after the October 25th implementation date to assess its continued need based on future outbreak conditions.

An analysis by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) conducted for King County found that the vaccine verification policy at restaurants, bars, and gyms/fitness centers alone could have a significant positive impact, preventing between 17,900 and 75,900 infections, 421 and 1,760 hospitalizations, and 63 and 257 deaths locally over six months with the order in place.

"We are at a critical point in this pandemic, with high levels of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, and no certainty as to what will follow the Delta variant," said King County Executive Dow Constantine. "Vaccination is our best shield against this deadly virus. With over 85 percent of King County residents having received at least their first vaccine dose, vaccine verification will help keep people safe and keep businesses open."

"Seattle was the first region in the country to feel the devastating effects of the COVID-19 virus, and we innovated and brought nation-leading testing and vaccination sites to our residents. That work is why we have one of the highest vaccination rates and the lowest cases, hospitalizations, and deaths of any major American city," said Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan. "But Seattle is not immune to the surge in cases and hospitalizations caused by the Delta variant. We must act now – and act boldly – to change the trajectory of the virus and keep our communities safe. After extensive engagement with community partners, small businesses, venues, and hospitals, Seattle is proud to implement a vaccination verification policy. It's the right thing to do for our workers, our customers, our economy, and the health and vitality of our city."

"Our COVID-19 response must continue to adapt to the difficult, changing reality of this pandemic. The Delta virus is much more contagious, airborne, causes severe illness, and is seriously stressing our hospitals and healthcare providers," said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. "King County's vaccine verification program will prevent infections, hospitalizations and deaths, safeguard our healthcare system, and provide safer spaces for the public and for workers."

Several forms of vaccination proof will be permitted under the order, including:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 vaccination record card or photo of card.
  • printed certificate or QR code (available in late September) from MyIRMobile.com. (MyIR Mobile is currently limited to English language only. For language assistance, or additional help getting your records, call the Washington State Vaccine Helpline at 833-VAX-HELP (833-829-4357) or email waissrecords@doh.wa.gov).
  • other official immunization record from within or outside the United States, including from your health care provider. A photo or photocopy of this card is also acceptable.

The order defines full vaccination as two weeks after the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after one dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or two weeks after completing another approved vaccine. No personal identification with proof of vaccination will be required.

For people who are unvaccinated or cannot prove vaccine status, they will be required to show proof of a negative PCR COVID-19 test in the last 72 hours, or a negative rapid test result from a testing provider conducted on site at an event or establishment just prior to entry. Individuals under 12 years of age, who are not eligible to be vaccinated, are not required to be tested for entry.

Establishments will be responsible for checking vaccination proof or negative test status. Public Health, King County, and City of Seattle will be working with partners to provide technical support and educational materials to businesses and organizations implementing the order.

King County, the City of Seattle, and Public Health developed the vaccine verification policy in consultation with Public Health's Pandemic and Racism Community Advisory Group, cities, small businesses, chambers of commerce, labor unions, trade associations, sports teams, entertainment venues, community groups, and faith-based leaders throughout the county to create a policy that aims to be workable, fair, and equitable for businesses and residents.

Several jurisdictions have already adopted some form of vaccine verification policy, including New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles County, the State of California, British Columbia in Canada, and Clallam and Jefferson counties in Washington state. Last week, several local sports teams and venues, including the Seattle Kraken, Seattle Mariners, Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Sounders FC, Seattle Storm, Seattle Thunderbirds, University of Washington Huskies, and all events at Climate Pledge Arena adopted vaccination verification policies.

The Delta variant is more than twice as contagious as the original COVID-19, which makes increasing vaccination rates even more important to slowing disease spread and protecting people from hospitalization and death. UW's IHME projects our outbreak to worsen in the next six months with hundreds of thousands of additional cases, thousands of additional hospitalizations, and approximately a thousand additional deaths, with the majority among unvaccinated people.

Currently, 68% of the total King County population and 79% of eligible King County residents (those 12 years of age and up) have completed their vaccination series against COVID-19, including more than 70% of every eligible age group and all racial groups tracked by Public Health. There are nearly 300,000 King County residents who are eligible but have not yet started their vaccination series.

Anyone needing COVID-19 vaccine can visit KingCounty.gov/vaccine to find a vaccine in their neighborhood. To date, more than three million vaccine doses have been administered in King County.

For more information on King County's COVID-19 vaccine verification policy, visit KingCounty.gov/verify

Relevant links

Quotes

We are at a critical point in this pandemic, with high levels of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, and no certainty as to what will follow the Delta variant. Vaccination is our best shield against this deadly virus. With over 85 percent of King County residents having received at least their first vaccine dose, vaccine verification will help keep people safe and keep businesses open.

King County Executive Dow Constantine

Seattle was the first region in the country to feel the devastating effects of the COVID-19 virus, and we innovated and brought nation-leading testing and vaccination sites to our residents. That work is why we have one of the highest vaccination rates and the lowest cases, hospitalizations, and deaths of any major American city. But Seattle is not immune to the surge in cases and hospitalizations caused by the Delta variant. We must act now – and act boldly – to change the trajectory of the virus and keep our communities safe. After extensive engagement with community partners, small businesses, venues, and hospitals, Seattle is proud to implement a vaccination verification policy. It's the right thing to do for our workers, our customers, our economy, and the health and vitality of our city.

Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan

Our COVID-19 response must continue to adapt to the difficult, changing reality of this pandemic. The Delta virus is much more contagious, airborne, causes severe illness, and is seriously stressing our hospitals and healthcare providers," said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. "King County's vaccine verification program will prevent infections, hospitalizations and deaths, safeguard our healthcare system, and provide safer spaces for the public and for workers.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer, Public Health – Seattle & King County

As a critical care nurse here in Seattle, I can tell you that our health care system has reached its breaking point. Hospital intensive care units are filled with unvaccinated patients who are extremely sick with COVID-19, causing significant strain on health care workers trying to provide the best possible care to all of our patients. We need help from the community, and we need more people to get vaccinated. Vaccine verification is one more tool to help keep our community safe, slow the spread of the coronavirus and ensure that our nurses and health care workers can be there for you when you need us.

Heather Likins, a registered nurse and member of the Washington State Nurses Association

Hospitals are really stretched right now across Washington State. We should be doing all we can to ensure the health care system is there to serve our residents. Preventing further COVID infections is a powerful way to protect the health care system. We applaud King County for requiring vaccinations and encourage other counties to do the same.

Cassie Sauer, President and Chief Executive Officer, Washington State Hospital Association

IHME's projections show that COVID-19 transmissions will extend beyond 2021. said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of IHME. "Our data has shown vaccines, masking, and social distancing can reduce the risk of infection and prevent the spread of COVID-19 cases. If businesses, schools, and government come together, we can help protect our community and help stop this pandemic sooner rather than later."

Dr. Christopher Murray, Director, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation

As a member of the Seattle & King County community, as a parent of two children in local schools, and as an infectious diseases physician who has worked on fighting the pandemic since January of 2020, I am in very strong support of the actions being taken by Public Health – Seattle & King County. The number of new cases of COVID are leading to far too much suffering. Too many people, adults and children, are ending up in hospitals across the state and here in our county, threatening to overwhelm the system. We have the tools to slow this down and to prevent not only needless suffering but also the ongoing disruption of our lives. After more than twenty months, I desperately want to get back to as close to normal as possible, but we can't get there without reducing the risk for all through vaccination, masking, testing, physical distancing, and ventilation. A requirement for vaccination or a negative COVID test to enter higher risk public spaces is a sensible step to get our community back to where we all want to be.

Dr. John Lynch, Medical Director, Harborview Medical Center Infection Prevention and Control; Associate Professor of Medicine and Allergy and Infectious Diseases at University of Washington School of Medicine

After a year-and-a-half of COVID-19 controlling and taking away lives, vaccines are the only way to stop this pandemic, prevent more dangerous strains from developing, restore our freedoms and our safety, and return our society to normalcy. King County's decision to verify vaccination for entry in outdoor events, recreational events or establishments and restaurants, is an important and needed step in the current fight against the pandemic. We support the engagement of the public and private sector to play more of a role in helping close the vaccination gap in our communities. No matter what lies ahead, the more vaccinated we are as a community, the safer we will be from this dangerous virus. Together, we can help put an end to this pandemic and regain freedom from COVID-19.

Dr. Paul Thottingal, National Infectious Disease Lead for Kaiser Permanente

At Swedish, we continue to see ongoing outbreaks that put the most vulnerable members of our communities at risk. Having been on the front lines since the beginning, and now responding to this latest surge, we know this is not sustainable for our communities or our caregivers. We also know the COVID-19 vaccines remain one of the safest and most effective tools for preventing severe illness and hospitalizations, so we support the announcement today that we believe will help encourage everyone who can get vaccinated to get vaccinated.

Dr. Guy Hudson, Chief Executive Officer, Swedish Health Services

The Seattle Metro Chamber strongly and actively supports vaccination because we know it is the path out of this pandemic and toward an equitable economic recovery. As employers prepare to implement the new vaccine verification program over the next several weeks, the Chamber is ready to be their champion. Thanks to a tight-knit partnership with King County, we are getting information and tools ready to make compliance simple, and we have built a support network of experts to help businesses of all sizes throughout our region. Members will have a partner in this every step of the way.

Rachel Smith, President and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce

STG is proud to support this policy to keep the arts safe for our community. Without these clear guidelines, we would put the livelihoods of artists and arts-workers at continued risk. The performing arts industry has been devastated by this pandemic. This order keeps the arts on the path to recovery, while mitigating the most serious health and safety risks for our patrons and their families

Nate Dwyer, Chief Operating Officer, Seattle Theatre Group
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:

Public Health Media Team, PHPIO@kingcounty.gov

Kristin Elia, Executive Office, 206-477-8209