King County WA, Including Seattle, Adopts Vaccine Verification Requirements and Encourages Employers To Do The Same

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Seyfarth Synopsis: Starting Oct. 25, patrons will be required to provide proof of full vaccination or a negative test for COVID-19 to enter any restaurant, bar, gym, theater, or entertainment venue in King County. Employers and venue operators are strongly recommended to independently require vaccination of employees or volunteers.

Asserting that vaccinations are the most effective way to reduce spread of COVID-19, King County Executive Constantine and Seattle Mayor Durkan announced new requirements, in the form of a Verification of Vaccination Order, requiring patrons to provide vaccine verification in order to enter certain indoor and outdoor establishments, with an alternative to provide a negative COVID-19 test instead. Children under age 12, who aren’t yet eligible for a vaccine, are exempt.

This will place a burden on businesses covered by the Order, requiring them to dedicate additional staff to verify vaccination status in an environment where many restaurants and other businesses are already understaffed. It may also place employees in a position of being “vaccine enforcers,” potentially subjecting them to verbal and even physical assault from patrons who do not want to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test. New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans have already adopted similar requirements.

Starting October 25, 2021, all patrons and customers 12-years of age and older must verify that they are fully vaccinated prior to entry to the following public events and establishments:

  • Outdoor recreational and entertainment events with 500 or more people, such as collegiate sports, professional sports, and concerts.
  • Indoor restaurants, bars, and taverns with seating capacity of 12 and more AND entertainment and recreational establishments, such as entertainment and performing arts venues, night clubs, music and concert venues, movie theaters, museums, collegiate and professional sports stadiums and arenas, exhibition halls, and convention centers, with indoor consumption of food and/or drink.
  • Indoor restaurants, bars, and taverns with seating capacity of less than 12 (starting December 6, 2021).

“Fully vaccinated” means that a person has received all the required doses of an FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine (two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) or a WHO-authorized COVID-19 vaccine series (such as the AstraZeneca vaccine), and 14 days have passed since the final dose.

Verification of vaccination may be established by any of the following methods of documentation:

  • CDC COVID-19 Vaccine Record Card, or photo of CDC Vaccine Record Card
  • QR Code, digital or printed certificate from MyIRmobile.com (WA Department of Health My Immunization Records)
  • Vaccine administration record from a vaccine provider, including an individual’s doctor, pharmacy, or other official immunization record from within or outside the U.S., or a photo or photocopy
  • Specific mobile applications that verify vaccination status will be allowed if approved by the WA Department of Health or Public Health – Seattle & King County

Patrons may also provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken no greater than 72 hours prior to entry or a negative rapid COVID-19 test taken on-site. Medical or religious exemptions are not acceptable in lieu of vaccine verification or a negative COVID-19 test.

In addition to children under 12-years of age, several other exemptions are specifically listed in the order, including:

  • Outdoor or indoor youth sporting events for elementary, middle school, and high school age participants, and the spectators at these events
  • Outdoor dining, take-out from restaurants, taverns, and bars, as well as indoor dining in buildings that primarily serve non-dining purposes such as in airports, mall food courts, and school cafeterias
  • Funerals and weddings (except those occurring in a covered public indoor establishments)
  • Faith-based gatherings (except those occurring in covered public indoor establishments)
  • Vote centers sanctioned by King County Elections, held at any location

While the Order does not go as far as requiring vaccination of employees or volunteers at the covered establishments or venues, the Order strongly recommends that employers and venue operators independently require vaccination of employees or volunteers.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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