New King County vaccine requirement a ‘sensible step,’ say health officials

Sep 17, 2021, 5:22 AM
proof of vaccination, vaccine...
A person presents their vaccine card at Liberty Theatre in Camas, Washington. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

Seattle and King County officials announced new vaccine requirements for select indoor businesses and outdoor events on Thursday, a decision they say will be critical to reining in the COVID pandemic headed into the winter months.

Vaccine rules in Clallam, Jefferson counties part of ‘social contract’

The policy will take effect for most businesses on Oct. 25, including indoor restaurants, bars, music venues, performing arts, museums, theaters, gyms, conventions, large outdoor events, and professional sports. In practice, people frequenting those businesses and events will have to either show proof of vaccination as a condition of entry, or of a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours.

Both elected leaders and health officials cited concerns over the potential for a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations as colder weather begins to drive people indoors in the fall and winter months.

Perhaps even more troubling is the possibility that hospitals will continue to be strained to their limits without more aggressive mitigation measures.

“As a critical care nurse here in Seattle, I can tell you that our health care system has reached its breaking point,” Heather Likins with the Washington State Nurses Association said in a news release. “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.”

That’s a sentiment echoed by others in the health care industry who commented on the new requirements. Harborview Medical Director Dr. John Lynch labeled the move a “sensible step to get our community back to where we all want to be.”

Gov. Inslee ‘actively considering’ expanded vaccine requirements

Members of Seattle’s business and theater communities are similarly supportive.

“Without these clear guidelines, we would put the livelihoods of artists and arts-workers at continued risk,” Seattle Theatre Group COO Nate Dwyer said. “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.”

“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,” Seattle Chamber of Commerce CEO Rachel Smith said. “As employers prepare to implement the new vaccine verification program over the next several weeks, the Chamber is ready to be their champion.”

You can see full details on the accepted forms of vaccination verification, the specific businesses that will be affected, and COVID-19 projection data that informed the county’s requirements here.

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New King County vaccine requirement a ‘sensible step,’ say health officials