October 17, 2021

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King County executive says vaccine verification policy in the works for non-essential businesses, venues

Indoor businesses and venues in King County may soon require proof of vaccination.

King County Executive Dow Constantine announced on Tuesday that the county is currently conducting outreach with business and community organizations to develop vaccine verification requirements at non-essential businesses and venues. He explained the policy could take effect in October. 

“We need to protect people from infection, protect our children who don’t have the option of being vaccinated and protect our businesses and community organizations that are just getting back on their feet,” said Constantine.

The county executive said Public Health – Seattle & King County is conducting outreach with places like restaurants, bars, sports and music venues to help determine a vaccine verification policy in King County.

“These are the places where people gather and infections are more likely. This needs to be based on science generated by the public health profession, said Constantine. “We’re working with business communities, neighborhood communities, working with BIPOC community-based organizations to figure out what the right policy is and how to implement it in a way that is fair and productive.” 

With COVID-19 Delta variant cases rising and hospitals filling with patients who have tested positive, Constantine said it’s important to be proactive to ensure the health and safety of people who live and work in King County.

“What we want to do is avoid having to go backwards—go backwards to the restrictions on gatherings, restrictions on businesses before we had the vaccine as an option. And to do that we need to make sure that gathering places are safe,” said Constantine.

Data collected by the health department, as of September 2, shows 84.1 percent of eligible King County residents have started their vaccination process, and 77.9 percent of residents are fully vaccinated.

RELATED: Dozens of Seattle bars require proof of vaccination due to rise in COVID cases

“This is one of the most vaccinated places in the country. We are doing a great job at that, but we still have this huge upsurge in infections because about 15-20 percent of folks have not yet gotten vaccinated. And we have to protect ourselves against that. We have to make sure that our hospitals are able to accept patients, we have to make sure that our businesses stay open so people can continue to gather. So, we are going to try to take the most logical measure and science based steps we can to make that happen,” said Constantine.

Clallam and Jefferson counties in Washington are already requiring proof of vaccination at bars and restaurants. The staff at First Street Haven in Port Angeles is still getting used to the new mandate.

“It definitely at times feels unfair that we’re kind of on the front line and we’re having to kind of be the enforcement. At the same time, our county is having 80 to 100 cases a day and two or three deaths a week and we’re a fairly small population county and that is not an acceptable alternative,” said restaurant owner Mike French.

French, who is also a Port Angeles city councilmember, said all of his employees are vaccinated. He said he has had to turn away some customers, but most have been following the rule. French said ultimately when it comes down to the health and safety of the community, he understands the requirement.

“If we have to be the people that are asking to see people’s vaccine cards so that my two sons can still stay in school in person, that’s a completely acceptable trade-off to me,” said French.

Constantine said a vaccine verification policy in King County could start five weeks after the health department finishes developing the requirements. He said more information and a specific start date from health officers could be announced as early as next week.

“We have succeeded in this fight constantly following the experts and not substituting our lay judgment for that. I’m hopeful we can come up with plan that gets us to a place that is safe, that is reducing the number of hospitalizations and ultimately allows us to get out from under this surge in COVID and on the road to recovery,” said Constantine.

King County is accepting public comments on the proposed policy. Those interested in sharing their thoughts can send an email to [email protected]

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