SPOKANE, Wash. — Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced changes to statewide COVID-19 protocols on Thursday, including a significant loosening of restrictions on crowds of fully vaccinated people.
The changes allow thousands of people to attend sporting events without masks or distancing.
Stadiums and arenas in Washington are allowed to designate sections of permanent seating as "vaccinated-only" sections that essentially operate the way things did pre-pandemic.
These areas can be filled to 100% capacity, meaning strangers will once again be allowed to be sat near each other. Masks are not required in these sections, as of Thursday.
Any portion of the venue where people who are not fully vaccinated are allowed still has to follow the applicable phase requirements. Starting Tuesday, the whole state will be in phase 3.
That means 25% capacity in outdoor stadiums with a maximum of 9,000 unvaccinated people and it means 50% capacity in indoor arenas with a maximum of 1,000 unvaccinated people.
Groups in these areas must remain 6 feet apart from each other, and everyone has to wear masks.
People who are 16 or older must be fully vaccinated to be allowed in the vaccinated sections. That means it's been two weeks since they received their final dose.
Children ages 12 to 15 have two ways to be granted admittance to vaccinated sections. First, they could get fully vaccinated, now that they're eligible for the Pfizer shot. Second, if they're not vaccinated, they can be admitted if they test negative for COVID within 72 hours prior to the event.
Children ages 5 to 11 are not yet eligible for the shot, but they can still be allowed in vaccinated sections if they have a negative test.
Children under the age of 5 can get into vaccinated sections without a shot or a test, as long as the adult they're with is fully vaccinated.
What proof is required
The governor's office has outlined a few varieties of acceptable proof of vaccination:
- Present your physical vaccine card.
- Provide a document with a photo of the card.
- Show a picture of the card on your phone or other device.
- Provide paper or digital records of your vaccination created by your official healthcare provider.
- Provide paper or digital records of your vaccination from the state database.
For proof of a negative test, paper or digital records are acceptable. The results have to display a name, the type of test performed and the date of the negative result.
Even though some places around the country have created more advanced vaccine passports that are designed to be harder to fake, Inslee has made it clear Washington is not planning on creating or requiring such a passport. However, if individual businesses want to require more advanced proof, he says that's their prerogative.