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King County to explore enacting new vaccine requirements for indoor businesses

A sign outside a West Seattle vaccine site. (MyNorthwest photo)

King County has officially started the process to explore requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for select non-essential indoor businesses and venues.

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The county has yet to determine the exact parameters such requirements might entail, as it will first conduct engagement with local labor unions, business owners, and community organizations to gather feedback. The larger goal is to focus on looking into vaccine rules for “non-essential indoor and outdoor spaces where people gather in close proximity for a prolonged period of time.”

“We’re at a critical point in the pandemic,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a news release. “In a County where more than 4 out of 5 eligible residents have taken advantage of the opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID, vaccine verification is the best way for businesses and gatherings to remain open, vibrant, and at full capacity.”

The county cites similar restrictions in places like San Francisco and New York City, both of which require proof of vaccination for bars, restaurants, clubs, and gyms, among other businesses and activities.

Once King County determines the exact requirements it plans to put into place, it will then have those new rules take effect sometime in October, allowing five weeks for residents to get fully vaccinated.

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Nearly 160 bars, restaurants, music venues, and nightclubs in Seattle already require either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. The Seattle Seahawks, Mariners, Sounders, Kraken, the University of Washington, and Washington State University all announced their own requirements this week as well.

A new dashboard from Public Health — Seattle & King County tracks the risk level for the region’s unvaccinated residents over the last 30 days. Over that period, those who are not fully vaccinated have been seven times more likely to test positive for COVID-19, nearly 50 times more likely to be hospitalized, and over 30 times more likely to die from COVID.

An estimated 84% of eligible King County residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while nearly 78% are fully vaccinated.

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