King County to require proof of vaccination or negative test for many outdoor and indoor events and establishments to address COVID-19 spread

With continued high levels of preventable COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and increased deaths driven by the Delta variant, serious stress on our regional healthcare system, and concern for a significant outbreak resurgence this fall and winter, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan and community, health care, small business, and arts and culture partners joined in support of requiring verification of full vaccination or a negative test to enter certain indoor and outdoor activities and establishments.

Health Order issued today by Public Health – Seattle & King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin, going into effect on October 25, will protect customers and workers through providing safer spaces, protecting our health care system, and helping prevent business closures. It will apply to:

  • Outdoor events with 500 people or more – such as professional and collegiate sports and entertainment events
  • Indoor entertainment and recreational events or establishments – such as professional and collegiate sports, entertainment, performing arts, museums, theatre, live music, gyms, and conferences/conventions.
  • Restaurants and bars (including indoor dining) – this does not apply to outdoor dining, take-out customers, and places that aren’t primarily used as a restaurant, such as grocery stores.

The order gives the option for a longer preparation period for smaller restaurants and bars with a seating capacity of 12 or less, with an implementation date of December 6. The entire order is not expected to be permanent. It will be reviewed no later than six months after the October 25th implementation date to assess its continued need based on future outbreak conditions.

An analysis by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) conducted for King County found that the vaccine verification policy at restaurants, bars, and gyms/fitness centers alone could have a significant positive impact, preventing between 17,900 and 75,900 infections, 421 and 1,760 hospitalizations, and 63 and 257 deaths locally over six months with the order in place.

“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,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Vaccination is our best shield against this deadly virus. With over 85 percent of King County residents having received at least their first vaccine dose, vaccine verification will help keep people safe and keep businesses open.”

“Seattle was the first region in the country to feel the devastating effects of the COVID-19 virus, and we innovated and brought nation-leading testing and vaccination sites to our residents. That work is why we have one of the highest vaccination rates and the lowest cases, hospitalizations, and deaths of any major American city,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan. “But Seattle is not immune to the surge in cases and hospitalizations caused by the Delta variant. We must act now – and act boldly – to change the trajectory of the virus and keep our communities safe. After extensive engagement with community partners, small businesses, venues, and hospitals, Seattle is proud to implement a vaccination verification policy. It’s the right thing to do for our workers, our customers, our economy, and the health and vitality of our city.”

“Seattle residents have led the nation in fighting the pandemic. We’ve stayed socially distant, moved our socializing outside, masked up, and gotten vaccinated to keep our neighbors and loved ones safe and healthy. This new mandate will also make it possible for our small business owners, cultural workers, and hourly workers to go back to work while keeping our community safe. I’m more than ready to return safely to live music and meals out with friends and family. As Chair of the committee with oversight of Public Health, my deepest appreciation to the industry leaders who have worked so tirelessly with Public Health to craft this policy,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle/South Park).

“Our COVID-19 response must continue to adapt to the difficult, changing reality of this pandemic. The Delta virus is much more contagious, airborne, causes severe illness, and is seriously stressing our hospitals and healthcare providers,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “King County’s vaccine verification program will prevent infections, hospitalizations and deaths, safeguard our healthcare system, and provide safer spaces for the public and for workers.”

Several forms of vaccination proof will be permitted under the order, including:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 vaccination record card or photo of card.
  • printed certificate or QR code (available in late September) from MyIRMobile.com. (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 (833-829-4357) or email waissrecords@doh.wa.gov).
  • 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.

The order defines full vaccination as two weeks after the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after one dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or two weeks after completing another approved vaccine. No personal identification with proof of vaccination will be required.

For people who are unvaccinated or cannot prove vaccine status, they will be required to show proof of a negative PCR COVID-19 test in the last 72 hours, or a negative rapid test result from a testing provider conducted on site at an event or establishment just prior to entry. Individuals under 12 years of age, who are not eligible to be vaccinated, are not required to be tested for entry.

Establishments will be responsible for checking vaccination proof or negative test status. Public Health, King County, and City of Seattle will be working with partners to provide technical support and educational materials to businesses and organizations implementing the order.

King County, the City of Seattle, and Public Health developed the vaccine verification policy in consultation with Public Health’s Pandemic and Racism Community Advisory Group, cities, small businesses, chambers of commerce, labor unions, trade associations, sports teams, entertainment venues, community groups, and faith-based leaders throughout the county to create a policy that aims to be workable, fair, and equitable for businesses and residents.

Several jurisdictions have already adopted some form of vaccine verification policy, including New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles County, the State of California, British Columbia in Canada, and Clallam and Jefferson counties in Washington state. Last week, several local sports teams and venues, including the Seattle Kraken, Seattle Mariners, Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Sounders FC, Seattle Storm, Seattle Thunderbirds, University of Washington Huskies, and all events at Climate Pledge Arena adopted vaccination verification policies.

The Delta variant is more than twice as contagious as the original COVID-19, which makes increasing vaccination rates even more important to slowing disease spread and protecting people from hospitalization and death. UW’s IHME projects our outbreak to worsen in the next six months with hundreds of thousands of additional cases, thousands of additional hospitalizations, and approximately a thousand additional deaths, with the majority among unvaccinated people.

Currently, 68% of the total King County population and 79% of eligible King County residents (those 12 years of age and up) have completed their vaccination series against COVID-19, including more than 70% of every eligible age group and all racial groups tracked by Public Health. There are nearly 300,000 King County residents who are eligible but have not yet started their vaccination series.

Anyone needing COVID-19 vaccine can visit KingCounty.gov/vaccine to find a vaccine in their neighborhood. To date, more than three million vaccine doses have been administered in King County.

For more information on King County’s COVID-19 vaccine verification policy, visit KingCounty.gov/verify