Health officer says King County’s COVID vaccination policy is ‘based on risk’

Oct 10, 2021, 7:49 AM
A person presents their vaccine card at Liberty Theatre on May 14, 2021, in Camas, Washington. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

In September, King County Public Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin issued a Health Order that will require people attending recreational activities in most public places to show proof of COVID vaccination.

Everything you need to know about King County’s new vaccine requirements

The order takes effect across King County on Oct. 25. For anyone who is unvaccinated or cannot prove vaccine status, they must show proof of a negative PCR COVID-19 test in the last 72 hours, or an FDA-approved rapid test result from a test conducted by a testing provider on site at an event or establishment just prior to entry.

The new policy will apply to restaurants, bars, movie theaters, gyms, and music venues, among others.

Since announcing the upcoming health order — and before announcing it — Dr. Duchin says Public Health — Seattle & King County and the King County Executive’s Office conducted outreach with community stakeholders, including businesses and community groups.

“Initially, we heard their feedback and tried to understand some of their concerns, and tried to incorporate that information into our policy to the greatest extent possible,” he said Friday, Oct. 8, in a COVID-19 briefing.

He noted that the county is continuing to try to meet needs of business owners to help them be successful in implementing these policies. That includes, he says, teams in place who are available to assist business owners and resources for businesses to get help if they face any issues in implementation or have questions.

This policy applies to restaurants and bars but not to retail or grocery stores. On Friday, Duchin was asked if that is something we can expect in the future, and why some venues would be left out.

“The decision making really is based on risk,” Dr. Duchin replied. “Our policy is very similar to those that have been implemented in other parts of the world — in Europe, in Canada, British Columbia, multiple other cities across the U.S. And it’s based on the fact that certain activities and certain settings present a higher risk for COVID-19 spread.”

“This virus spreads through the air. It’s exhaled into the air and it floats around like cigarette smoke or perfume would,” he added. “So places where people spend a longer time — like a restaurant or a gym — or places where people do activities like exercise, or singing, or other things that would put more of the virus into the air, pose the greatest risk. And that’s why these particular venues are selected.”

“In addition, large congregate settings where super-spreader events can happen are included,” he said.

Washington Hospitality Association: Requiring proof of vaccine needs to be consistent

Dr. Duchin noted that the public health officials understand this policy isn’t perfect and that it doesn’t (or won’t) stop all transmission of COVID-19, but it is expected to help slow the spread. He recognizes there are other venues in the community, like retail or grocery stores, that aren’t included in the policy, but, as he explains, people typically spend less time in those places. Duchin says they also tend to be larger, and often better ventilated. They’re also places that people need to visit for essential services.

“It didn’t make sense for this, both on the risk basis or on the basis of allowing people to continue to do what’s essential for them,” he said about leaving those venues out of the policy.

“This is really focused on trying to identify venues that present the highest risk and that are not essential,” he added.

For more information for businesses about verification policy and resources, got to KCVaxVerified.com. The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce is also conducting outreach and providing information for businesses throughout the region.

To listen to Dr. Duchin’s latest COVID-19 briefing, visit this link.

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Health officer says King County’s COVID vaccination policy is ‘based on risk’