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King County to require proof of vaccination for indoor dining, gyms and events starting Oct. 25

People who are unvaccinated will need to show a negative COVID-19 test taken within the last 72 hours if they want to dine indoors in King County.

SEATTLE — Anyone dining inside a King County bar or restaurant, attending an indoor event or outdoor event with more than 500 people must be fully vaccinated as of Oct. 25, according to a new order passed down by Public Health – Seattle & King County Health Officer Dr. Jeffrey Duchin.

Duchin was joined by King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and several business and health leaders at the press conference Thursday afternoon. 

County officials decided the order was necessary in order to lighten the load on area hospitals that are seeing some of the highest rates of COVID-19 admissions ever, Duchin said. Deaths are also on the rise, as documented on the Washington State Department of Health COVID-19 Data Dashboard. 

One King County resident is hospitalized for COVID-19 every hour, and one King County resident dies from COVID-19 every eight hours, according to county data. 

Paired with King County's 85% vaccination rate, officials said they preferred the vaccination order over bringing back capacity restrictions.

For people who are unvaccinated or people who don't have proof of vaccination, they will need to show a negative COVID-19 test taken within the last 72-hours to comply with the order. Officials said they delayed the effective date of the order so those who have not yet had the opportunity to get vaccinated can complete their vaccination series. 

Vaccination requirements don't apply to outdoor dining, take-out customers or places that aren't primarily used as restaurants, like grocery stores. The requirements do apply to performance venues and gyms. Small restaurants with the capacity for less than 12 people will have until Dec. 6 to make the change.  

A CDC COVID-19 vaccine card or a photo of one, a printed certificate or QR code from MyIRMobile.com, documentation from a medical record or a vaccine provider, or a vaccine verification app approved by the Washington State Department of Health are all considered proof of vaccination.  

According to a report from the University of Washington's Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), King County's COVID-19 outbreak is expected to worsen over the next six months. Without the vaccine verification requirement, the county could see an additional 300,000 new infections in King County, 8,000 additional hospitalizations and up to 1,000 or more additional deaths.

IHME estimated the verification requirement could prevent between 17,900 and 75,900 infections, between 421 and 1,760 hospitalizations and between 63 and 257 deaths. 

CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association Cassie Sauer thanked King County officials for passing down the order, saying "We think it's so visionary, and so looking into the future and making sure our hospitals are protected." 

Sauer said hospitals are having to delay necessary care for many patients, including care for cancerous tumors, spine surgery, colostomy reversal and other procedures. 

"It's a very serious situation," Sauer said. "We're ringed by states right now that have gone into crisis standards of care. Crisis standards is rationing care, it's choosing who lives and dies based on the amount of resources you have. We want to do everything we can in this state to not have that happen, this should not be happening in America today with a pandemic you can see coming, and is preventable." 

The order follows a similar one requiring proof of vaccination to dine indoors in Jefferson and Clallam counties, passed down in early September. Several venues around Seattle and King County have also already passed down COVID-19 vaccination requirements, including Lumen Field, T-Mobile Park and Climate Pledge Arena. 

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