Seattle, King County announce indoor vaccine requirement to fight COVID-19 spread

Seattle and King County Thursday announced an indoor vaccine requirement for restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters, and other entertainment venues. The mandate will also apply to outdoor events with more than 500 people in attendance.

Starting October 25, patrons 12-years-old and up must show proof that they are fully vaccinated or provide a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of entry.

The order applies inside restaurants and bars. It doesn’t affect outdoor dining, take-out orders and shopping in places including grocery stores.

Public Health – Seattle & King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said the move will protect customers and workers through providing safer spaces, protecting the health care system, and helping prevent business closures.

High levels of preventable COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and increased deaths driven by the highly contagious delta variant prompted the order.

King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and others in the community support the order, according to the news release.

"We must act now – and act boldly – to change the trajectory of the virus and keep our communities safe," Durkan said. "After extensive engagement with community partners, small businesses, venues, and hospitals, Seattle is proud to implement a vaccination verification policy."

"The way that this works the best is if people make the right choices," Mayor Jenny Durkan said in an interview with Q13 News.

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Asked whether the mandate would isolate those who are unvaccinated, Durkan said that would be their choice.

"For the people who say ‘I just don’t want it’ well then you’re making a choice. You’re making a choice that by doing that you can’t participate in things that are really important to society."

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The county’s order includes exceptions for take-out orders, outdoor dining, and grocery stores. Small restaurants, defined as those with seating capacity for fewer than 12 people, will phase into the mandate on December 6.

King County becomes the third Washington county to put down such a requirement. Jefferson and Clallam counties instituted indoor vaccine mandates for restaurants and bars starting September 4.

RELATED: Washington records over 7,000 deaths from COVID-19

The requirements are similar to those recently enacted in New York, San Francisco and New Orleans, as well as in Washington state’s Clallam and Jefferson counties.

More than 150 restaurants and bars in King County have already implemented some form of vaccine requirement to enter, The Seattle Times reported.

And King County members of the Washington Nightlife Music Association, a coalition of independently owned music venues, last month called on government officials to implement a vaccination-check mandate and the development of a statewide vaccine verification system.

RELATED: State workers seek exemptions to Washington COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Customers can use their vaccine cards or a photo of a vaccine card, documentation from a medical record or vaccine provider, or a printed certificate from to enter establishments already requiring vaccine proof.

Some local businesses throughout Seattle have been requiring proof of vaccination from customers for weeks.

"It just seemed like the tool at our disposal to keep our community safer," said Lucas Neve.

Neve is the Chef at Cafe Lago. He says the businesses started requiring vaccine proof in August. As a father, Neve says this requirement gives him piece of mind when he returns home to his three-year-old, who can't get the vaccine.

Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association, said in a statement Thursday that the announcement creates different standards for different types of eating places — and no additional standards for most businesses.

"The data shows without a doubt that COVID spreads everywhere, and any policy to reduce the spread must similarly apply everywhere," Anton said. "Anything less than that amounts to using our industry — which has been the hardest hit by far — as a carrot-and-stick for the small percentage of people in King County who have been unwilling to be vaccinated."

He said the association would continue working to be part of a solution based on science and urged people to be kind to hospitality workers as they work to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Duchin’s order is not meant to be permanent and will be reviewed within six months after the implementation date, officials said.

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