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Vaccine requirements in Clallam, Jefferson counties part of ‘social contract,’ says health officer

A person presents their vaccine card at Liberty Theatre in Camas, Washington. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

A public health order took effect in Clallam and Jefferson counties last week, requiring proof of vaccination for patrons entering an indoor restaurant or bar. As for why officials ultimately opted for that measure, health officer Dr. Allison Berry spoke to KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show to explain.

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In practice, the order mandates that all indoor restaurant and bar patrons show proof of vaccination as a requirement for entry, excepting children younger than 12 years old and employees of the businesses who mask continuously while working.

This comes while COVID-19 cases in both counties have stretched local hospitals to their limits, Berry cautioned. The hope is that requiring vaccinations for people in restaurants and bars can help address that by minimizing exposure in crowded indoor spaces.

“The primary issue here is reducing the risk of spread of COVID-19 in these high risk areas,” Berry explained, pointing to an outbreak in a single bar that started with 17 infections, and then later ballooned to over 100 cases. “In Clallam and Jefferson counties, our health care system is overwhelmed — we are unable to provide the kind of medical care that people are used to receiving, and we don’t have enough beds or enough people to staff them.”

“We have to stem the tide of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, and vaccines are the most effective way we have to do that,” she added.

Dr. Berry also clarified that the larger goal is to exhaust every possible option to avoid having to close down businesses.

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“When you see hospitals stretched beyond capacity, you would normally see businesses closed, and we don’t want to do that,” she noted. “I want to try to find a way to keep these bars and restaurants open.”

The new requirements go beyond that, though, with Dr. Berry pointing to other basic safety restrictions considered to be part of “a social contract in this country.” That ranges from rules against smoking indoors to not speeding in school zones, all of which exist under one guiding principle:

“I don’t think we have a right to endanger other people,” Berry described. “In order to operate a business, you have to have a wide variety of licenses — in order to maintain those licenses, you have to follow the laws of the region in which your business exists. If you are not following those laws, if you are not meeting basic health codes of the area in which your business is practicing, then those licenses can be revoked, and that has always been true.”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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