King County to end indoor vaccination verification March 1 at bars, restaurants, gyms

Feb 16, 2022, 6:58 AM | Updated: 1:29 pm

King County vaccine requirements, vaccine card...

Indoor businesses in King County must check for proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. (MyNorthwest photo)

(MyNorthwest photo)

COVID-19 vaccine verification requirements for most businesses in King County have been in effect since October of 2021. But local leaders announced Wednesday that those verification requirements will end March 1.

King County health officer: Endemic state does not mean ‘the outbreak is over’

The announcement comes from King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, and Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin, who also provided information on returning city and county employees to in-person work.

“Our public health experts believe that now is the appropriate time to lift vaccine verification, based on high rates of vaccine coverage and the decrease in new cases and hospitalizations across the county,” Constantine wrote in a Wednesday news release. “We are moving in the right direction, and can continue taking additional steps toward recovery.”

King County currently requires patrons at restaurants, gyms, entertainment venues, and large outdoor events to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19, or proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours.

After restrictions are relaxed in March, businesses will be allowed to require their own vaccine verification should they so choose. City and county leaders also confirmed that their remote employees will be returning to their offices in March were they previously working remotely.

As COVID cases and hospitalizations have trended downward, though, restrictions across the state have begun to relax. That began with Gov. Inslee announcing an end to Washington’s outdoor event mask mandate, which will officially lift on Friday, Feb. 18. At the time of that announcement, the governor said that an update on the state’s indoor mask mandate would follow within the next week. That could potentially come during a press conference from Inslee scheduled for Thursday, where he will unveil “plans for transitioning to the next phase of Washington state’s COVID-19 response.”

Transition from pandemic to endemic won’t be like a ‘light switch’

In King County, the seven-day daily average of COVID cases has dipped 24% over the last seven days, while hospitalizations and deaths have decreased by 21% and 16%, respectively. As of Feb. 11, the county was averaging just over 1,100 daily cases, down from the 6,400 cases it was averaging at the height of the omicron surge in January.

That said, the county still classifies its current transmission rate as “high,” given that case and hospitalization rates are still above levels seen during previous surges.

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King County to end indoor vaccination verification March 1 at bars, restaurants, gyms