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King County rolls out vaccine verification enforcement plan

If a King County business chooses not to check your COVID-19 vaccine status, it could now face hefty fines.

SEATTLE — King County businesses that repeatedly choose not to enforce the county’s COVID-19 vaccine verification mandate could face fines and temporary closure.

About a month after the policy took effect, Public Health – Seattle & King County released an enforcement plan Tuesday that outlines the steps it will take to ensure businesses are checking customer compliance.

As of Oct. 25, the county requires people 12 and older to verify they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or provide a negative test result to access large outdoor public events and indoor establishments, including restaurants, gyms and theaters. Starting Dec. 6, the mandate will apply to small restaurants and bars that seat fewer than 12 people.

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Here is how the enforcement process will work, according to the health department.

If Public Health – Seattle & King County receives a complaint about the business, it said it will initially contact the business to inform it of the mandate and the enforcement process.

If the department determines the business is choosing to be out of compliance or if it receives at least three complaints about the business, an inspector will go out to the property to investigate. From there, the inspector could issue a notice of violation, which warns the business could be fined if it doesn’t comply.

If the business still chooses not to comply after a second inspection, the department will issue escalating fines, starting at $250.

Finally, if the business remains out of compliance after multiple inspections and fines, the health department said it may explore temporarily closing the business.

The vaccine verification policy is expected to remain in effect until March 16, 2022, but the health department said the mandate may be adjusted, extended or removed based on the status of COVID-19 in King County.

So far, business compliance with the vaccine verification rules has been “strong,” according to Dennis Worsham, interim director for Public Health – Seattle & King County. The health department has received complaints on about 245 businesses out of more than 10,000 that are covered under the mandate.

The enforcement process comes as Washington state released an online tool, WA Verify, which generates a digital vaccine record and QR code as a new option to verify a person’s vaccination status. Once a customer has saved the card to their cellphone, a business can scan the code to see the customer’s record, including vaccination dates and type.