Everything you need to know about King County’s new vaccine requirements
New requirements for indoor businesses in King County took effect on Monday. But what exactly does that entail?
The new policy took effect on Oct. 25 for most businesses, with local health officials citing concerns over the potential for a continued rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations as colder weather begins to drive people indoors in the fall and winter months.
Which businesses and events will be affected?
The requirements applies largely to dining, entertainment, and nightlife venues. That includes indoor dining at restaurants, as well as bars, nightclubs, music venues, movie theaters, performing arts venues, gyms/fitness centers, conventions, outdoor events with more than 500 people, and professional and collegiate sports.
Patrons and attendees for relevant businesses and events will have to either show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19, or of a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken with 72 hours.
What qualifies as proof of vaccination?
The county’s directive allows for a handful of methods of providing proof of vaccination, permitting the following:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 vaccination record card, or a photo of the card
- A printed certificate or QR code from MyIRMobile.com (Note: 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, or email [email protected])
- 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.
Providing personal identification will not be required by the county. That said, many restaurants, bars, and music venues in Seattle do still require a matching ID, and in some cases, do not accept a negative COVID-19 test as an alternative to proof of vaccination. Businesses with more stringent rules will be permitted to keep those restrictions in place.
Are there exceptions?
Those under the age of 12 — and therefore not yet eligible to be vaccinated — are not required to show proof of a negative COVID test.
People dining outdoors and takeout customers at restaurants will not be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test, provided the business doesn’t have its own restrictions in place. Grocery stores are similarly exempt.
The order also sets an extended implementation date of Dec. 6 for restaurants and bars with a seating capacity of 12 or less.
Why is the county opting for new vaccine requirements now?
The hope from local officials is two-fold: to reduce contact in crowded areas among those who are not protected by the vaccine, and to increase vaccinations overall.
“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,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said. “Vaccination is our best shield against this deadly virus.”
An analysis from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluations conducted for the county found that a vaccine verification policy for restaurants, bars, and gyms and fitness centers alone could have a significant positive impact, preventing between 17,900 and 75,900 infections, 421 to 1,760 hospitalizations, and 63 to 257 deaths locally over six months with the order in place.
How long will this be in place?
While the exact timeline is unclear, officials note that it’s not expected to be permanent. The plan for now is to revisit the order in April 2022, six months after the directive’s initial Oct. 25 implementation.