Public Health Insider, Public Health – Seattle & King County
With new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations decreasing, and nearly 80% of all King County residents fully vaccinated, King County is ending the local health order requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test for entry into restaurants and bars, indoor recreational events and establishments, or outdoor events.
The vaccination verification policy will no longer be in effect as of March 1. Businesses and organizations may continue to implement their own vaccination verification rules for their establishments.
Background on Vaccination Verification Policy
The policy was announced in September 2021 as a temporary measure during the Delta variant surge and to prepare for a potential fall and winter surge. The intent of the policy was to give additional COVID-19 protection to employees and customers in high-risk indoor settings while providing more time for people to get fully vaccinated. Modeling produced by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) predicted the vaccine verification could have a significant positive impact in reducing infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.
The policy was supported by healthcare organizations, business groups, and arts and culture organizations. Multiple King County business owners and major sports teams had already implemented their own vaccination verification policies. King County worked with the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce to gather business feedback to inform the policy and conduct outreach and technical assistance once the policy was in place.
Current COVID-19 Summary
Today, after a record-breaking Omicron surge, COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in King County are dropping, and hospitals are better able to care for patient loads. We’ve seen an 80% decrease in COVID-19 incidence rates and a 60% decrease in hospitalization rates since COVID-19 cases peaked locally in mid-January.
More people are now vaccinated and protected against severe COVID-19. Since the vaccine verification policy was adopted, the number of King County residents fully vaccinated increased from 68% of the total population to now almost 80%; 84% of those eligible are fully vaccinated and 92% have started the vaccine series.
In addition, the large number of people who were infected during the Omicron surge will also likely result in some additional community immunity, at least for the short term. However, because we don’t know yet how long this immunity lasts or have a way to test for it in individuals, vaccination is recommended for everyone – even those who have been previously infected.
Continued COVID-19 Prevention
Vaccination verification is just one part of a multi-faceted COVID-19 prevention strategy.
Businesses should continue to improve ventilation, support vaccination for employees, and encourage employees to stay home when sick.
Vaccination and getting boosters when eligible are the most important tools available to prevent severe outcomes from COVID-19 infection. In addition:
- use high quality, well-fitting face masks
- improve indoor air quality through ventilation and/or use of HEPA filtration
- avoid crowded and poorly ventilated indoor spaces
- isolate away from others if you are ill, quarantine away from others if you are not up-to-date on your vaccinations and are exposed to someone with COVID-19, and get tested when possible if you have symptoms or are exposed.
Individuals who are immunocompromised may want to take extra precautions.
These steps will be important to protect against both current and future COVID-19 surges.
- Find a free COVID-19 vaccination or booster site near you!
- Press release announcing change to vaccine verification policy