It’s been nearly a month since King County began requiring customers aged 12 and up to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination status or a negative test in order to attend large outdoor public events or indoor entertainment and recreational establishments like live music, performing arts, gyms, restaurants, and bars.Small restaurants and bars (those with fewer than 12 seats) will also be required to comply with the policy as of December 6.
At that point, vaccine verification will be fully implemented in King County, with the goal of protecting customers and workers, preserving local hospital capacity, and assisting businesses in remaining open.An analysis conducted for King County by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) discovered that the vaccine verification policy could have a significant positive impact on reducing infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.How is everything going?
With one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the country, at over 84 percent for people aged 12 and up, it’s no surprise that the policy has been well-received, with widespread compliance by customers and businesses alike.We want to express our heartfelt gratitude to the many frontline employees, business managers, and owners who have adjusted their operations to include vaccine verification in their establishments in order to create safer environments for their customers and employees.
“We’ve heard from businesses that vaccine verification in King County is going well,” said Rachel Smith, president and CEO of the Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce. “While it may require additional work in the short term, this step is assisting customers and staff in feeling safe as they return to many of the activities we missed during the earlier stages of the pandemic.
” We support vaccination because we know it is the only way to get out of the pandemic and back on track to a more equitable economic recovery.”Since the policy’s inception, we’ve been collecting public reports of businesses that they believe are not fully complying with the policy so that we can investigate.
We have received complaints from approximately 245 different businesses to date. To put this in context, we estimate that the vaccine verification policy applies to over 10,000 King County businesses.”We hope that customers recognise and support businesses that make an effort to create a safe environment,” said Justin Young, owner of Flow Fitness in Seattle. “We know that vaccination is the only way to end this pandemic, but it comes at a cost to businesses.
“EnforcementOur primary focus, as with previous Public Health orders, has been on education and technical assistance. After businesses have had nearly a month to comply with vaccine verification, we will begin to implement enforcement mechanisms, if necessary, for businesses that continue to violate the order despite multiple warnings from Public Health.
The following is how the enforcement procedure will work:Education and outreach: If we receive a complaint that a business is not in compliance with the policy, we will notify the business, share educational resources, and inform them of the enforcement process.
In-person inspection: If we determine that the business is choosing to be out of compliance, or if we receive three or more complaints about the business, we will send an inspector to discuss the violations and investigate whether the complaints are accurate.Notice of violation: If the inspector determines that the business continues to choose noncompliance, Public Health will issue a “notice of violation,” which serves as a warning of potential fines if the business does not work to achieve full compliance.
Second inspection & fines: If we determine that the business continues to be non-compliant after a second in-person inspection, we will begin issuing escalating fines, beginning at $250.Business closure: If a business continues to refuse to implement vaccination verification despite fines and multiple inspections, we may consider temporarily closing the business.
“We collaborated with the business and arts communities to develop this vaccination verification policy, and as a result, we’ve seen high compliance,” said Dennis Worsham, Interim Director of Public Health – Seattle & King County. “We want to make sure that all businesses covered by the policy are following it so that employees and customers are safe.” Finally, reopening in a way that reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission while also protecting our healthcare system and our most vulnerable residents.
“Several other cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, have implemented similar enforcement systems for their local vaccination verification policies.
Throughout this pandemic, King County has seen very strong support for other Public Health orders, and we anticipate strong compliance with the vaccine verification policy to continue. The vaccination verification policy is set to last six months, until March 16, 2022, but it could be reviewed sooner.
Based on the status and impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in King County, we will adjust, extend, or remove this policy. Making a non-compliance complaint if you believe an establishment is not following the vaccine verification policy, please contact us using our online complaint form.
Assistance for companies businesses can access other vaccine verification implementation resources developed by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce by visiting King County Vax Verified.
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