CORONAVIRUS: King County to end vaccine-verification policy

As noted in our morning preview, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell planned to announce a change in the vaccine-verification policy this afternoon. From the announcement (which you can read in full here):

The vaccine verification policy in King County will no longer be in effect as of March 1. Businesses will no longer be required to check customers’ proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID-19 test, to enter restaurants and bars, indoor recreational events and establishments, or outdoor events.

With new COVID-19 cases and hospitalization decreasing, and over 87% of King County residents over age 12 fully vaccinated, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced Public Health – Seattle & King County is lifting the local health order requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for entry into indoor recreational settings, or outdoor events. The vaccination verification policy will no longer be in effect as of March 1. Businesses and organizations may continue to implement their own vaccination verification rules for their establishments. Additionally, King County and the City of Seattle announced their remote employees would begin returning to offices in March.

“From the beginning of this pandemic, our aim has been to protect the health of our community and save lives. Our public health experts believe that now is the appropriate time to lift vaccine verification, based on high rates of vaccine coverage and the decrease in new cases and hospitalizations across the county. We are moving in the right direction, and can continue taking additional steps toward recovery,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “King County businesses and community members have been instrumental in encouraging nation-leading vaccination verification rates, and I’m grateful for the extra effort to keep our community safe over these last several months.”

“The steady decline in positive cases is much needed positive news. Seattle will continue to follow public health guidance and adopt strategies that best keep our communities safe,” said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. “These steps forward show we are moving in the right direction and reflect that our region’s strong COVID response is the result of a united team effort. With City employees who had previously been working from home beginning to return to office in mid-March, I look forward to keeping up this collaborative spirit as we drive forward an equitable, community-focused recovery.”

“We announced the vaccination verification policy in anticipation of a fall and winter surge in cases. The intent was to reduce COVID-19 transmission in high-risk indoor settings and thereby reduce the burden on our hospitals, while providing time for more people to get fully vaccinated,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer, Public Health – Seattle & King County. “Following the record-breaking Omicron surge, we’re have seen a steady reduction in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, and hospital capacity is improving. In addition, since this policy was adopted, over one-quarter of a million King County residents have gotten vaccinated, meaning nearly 80% of King County residents are now fully vaccinated and 92% of those eligible have started the vaccination series.”

“Although our mandatory vaccine verification requirement is ending, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations remain elevated and layered COVID-19 prevention remains important. Everyone should continue to take steps to reduce COVID-19 risk, including getting vaccinated and boosted when eligible, using high quality, well-fitting face masks, improving indoor air quality through ventilation and filtration, and limiting time in crowded and poorly ventilated indoor spaces. Businesses should continue to support employees in getting vaccinated and staying home when sick.”

“We are thrilled to hear that recent public health data has encouraged King County leaders to move our community and our businesses into the next phase of the pandemic and prepare for the sunset of vaccine verification,” said Rachel Smith, president and CEO of the Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce. “This is our moment to celebrate the tremendous work the county, businesses, and customers did to make public health a priority – saving lives and keeping our economy moving. Vaccine verification was a win-win: our businesses got to keep their staff on payroll and keep their doors open, while prioritizing safety. Our top priority has been to support the King County business community as it navigated changes in regulations, and it can expect that same high level of support and resources from the Chamber to help ensure safety for our community moving forward.”

King County’s vaccination verification policy went into effect on October 25, 2021. The policy required either verification of full vaccination or a recent negative test to enter indoor entertainment and recreational events or establishments, indoor restaurants and bars, and outdoor events with 500 people or more.

The policy was announced in September 2021 as a temporary measure during the Delta variant surge and to prepare for a potential fall and winter surge. The intent of the policy was to give additional COVID-19 protection to employees and patrons in high-risk indoor settings while providing more time for people to get fully vaccinated. Modeling produced by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) predicted the vaccine verification could have a significant positive impact in reducing infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.

The policy was supported by healthcare organizations, business groups, and arts and culture organizations. Multiple King County business owners and major sports teams had already implemented their own vaccination verification policies. King County worked with the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce to gather business feedback to inform the policy and conduct outreach and technical assistance once the policy was in place.

75 Replies to "CORONAVIRUS: King County to end vaccine-verification policy"

  • Hopeful February 16, 2022 (1:45 pm)

    Great news!   Clearly the math supports moving to this next step.  As we all move forward together I sincerely hope students and teachers can remove their masks in school if they choose to do so.  I also encourage people to remain safe and respectful.

  • Pessoa February 16, 2022 (1:49 pm)

    Complete nonsense, of course.  There is no magical number(s) that either of these two singularly unimpressible politicians can point to that prompted these roll-backs, only political expediency.  It’s becoming more and more clear that in the last months, little of the pandemic response was driven by hard scientific data.  In other words, it’s time for Democrats to cut bait ahead of midterms. 

    • WS Guy February 16, 2022 (3:55 pm)

      Are you saying that over the past months you’ve collected data about governmental response, analyzed it, compared the policies and their outcomes, and arrived at that conclusion?  

      That approach shows a lack of faith in our authorities and is a denial of science.

    • Derek February 16, 2022 (4:14 pm)

      I’m surprised they let tinfoil hat comments get posted here. We needed the mandates and needed more than we got. Omicron spike and death count is proof. What science do you need?

      • Adam February 16, 2022 (5:26 pm)

        I’m surprised you’d advocate for silencing commenters you disagree with. I’ve seen many of your posts. They’re often not in agreement with the majority of other commenters. So how then do we decide? Remove your posts because you’re outnumbered (hypothetically)? Remove posts Derek has deemed dangerous? I feel like we’ve handled this whole freedom of speech issue and am concerned how many ppl aren’t for it whether they realize it or not.The greatest measure of free speech isn’t when we see and hear and say the things we agree with and celebrate it, it’s when we see and hear things we don’t agree with, yet understand others’ rights to express their ideas. 

      • UselessPoliticians February 16, 2022 (6:02 pm)

        Well the science has proven that being vaxxed does not prevent the spread of COVID anymore, so the vaccine mandates are really not needed for those purposes.  You can find those facts on the CDC website before you start launching statements to the contrary.  I am vaxxed, but believe if others still want to take the risk then they can make that choice.

        • rocket February 16, 2022 (10:10 pm)

          Please cite the study that says that vaccinated and or boosted people are just as likely to be infected than others.  There are studies that show quite the opposite.  While it wasnt as effective at stopping infection in prior variants it still did reduce infection and of coarse greatly reduced illness and death.  Claims provided without evidence should be dismissed without consideration.

          • UselessPoliticians February 17, 2022 (6:41 am)

            Go to the CDC it’s in plain sight. Vaccines no longer prevent the spread of the virus. I did not at all mention the benefits such as reduced symptoms, not going to the hospital or dying, I merely said the fact that now vaccines do not stop being infected and does not stop an infected vaxxed person from spreading it.  Vax Mandates should be moot now. It’s not my job to educate you, do your own research and try to remove your bias.

          • UselessPoliticians February 17, 2022 (7:06 am)

            Will the CDC work for you?  Look at section “Spread” and “vaccines”. This is only 1 place that shows this fact of many credible sources.  Things change so you should update your narrative to be more current.

        • West Seattle Mad Sci Guy February 17, 2022 (9:42 am)

          Vaccines aren’t about preventing the spread. (Though they can help)  preventing the spread is what masks can help with.  Vaccines are to prevent serious illness and death. Same with the flu vaccine.

      • Pessoa February 16, 2022 (8:55 pm)

        Funny thing about “tin foil hat” accusations, Derek, they are usually made by ideologues and those who are trying to suppress uncomfortable data or facts.  Don’t be one of them, it’s not a good look.   

    • Hopeful February 16, 2022 (5:59 pm)

      Pessoa: I agree wholeheartedly!! Just wanted to start thread off with a somewhat positive note. 

      • Pessoa February 16, 2022 (8:48 pm)

        Thanks, but you certainly needn’t explain yourself to me, or anyone else for that matter.  I agree, though, that we should look forward to removing masks and other restrictions.   

  • onion February 16, 2022 (2:08 pm)

    I’m curious what percentage of restaurants actually checked vaccination status? Based on my limited experience it has been well short of 100%. I actually felt more comfortable when they did. 

    • Mark B February 16, 2022 (6:15 pm)

      Based on my also anecdotal experience from a dozen or so WS restaurants, it’s been 100%. That said, never had ID checked and almost always just a cursory glance at the phone. 

      • Wseattleite February 16, 2022 (10:36 pm)

        Exactly right. This, far less than 100%. Not once was I ever checked to the degree they would have spotted if I was actually not vaccinated.  

  • WSMom February 16, 2022 (2:43 pm)

    Excellent news! Now let’s get the masks off of our kids!

    • Anne February 16, 2022 (3:46 pm)

      Teachers should be the ones that decide if  it’s time to do without masks in class.They are the ones in the classroom all day 5 days a week with hundreds of kids.If teachers are comfortable-then I’m fine with no masks. 

      • Adam February 16, 2022 (5:28 pm)

        I personally think it would be weird to get medical advice from a teacher. But call me old fashioned. What does the IHME know anyway? Why follow the science?

      • Hopeful February 16, 2022 (6:06 pm)

        I support teacher’s in wearing masks if they choose too.  I also assume teachers  (or their children if they are parents) will continue to stay home and not be going to any restaurants, indoor/outdoor events or gyms,  lest they run the risk of contracting Covid or bringing Covid into the classroom. 

      • rocket February 16, 2022 (10:11 pm)

        It makes more sense to let public health experts decide when the appropriate time to remove masks is.  Teachers have not exactly responded with reason to all of this…….

  • rb February 16, 2022 (2:46 pm)

    great news. hopefully we can get away with masks indoors soon. 

  • Brian February 16, 2022 (3:11 pm)

    It’s cool how pandemics get to be over just because we say so. /s

    • February 16, 2022 (3:25 pm)

      Or, because supposedly, the virus has run out of people to infect?

      • Brian February 16, 2022 (6:50 pm)

        You can get infected multiple times. It’s already been proven. 

        • Sam February 16, 2022 (9:32 pm)

          It will never end, then

          • Curious February 16, 2022 (11:20 pm)

            We’re currently wrapping up with Omicron variant BA.1 as it runs out of hosts, but Omicron variant BA.2, which is similar, but more transmissible, could be next. Apparently, having had BA.1 doesn’t necessarily protect you from BA.2. As usual, the experts recommend vaccines and N95 masks to protect against the BA.2.

    • Upper Faunt February 16, 2022 (3:48 pm)

      I think we’ll be seeing masks and restrictions for many years which is good. Nobody is saying the pandemic is over in this press release or in general. Does it make sense for servers and small business owners to be verifying medical status? Especially how easy a document it is to forge unlike ID’s? Severe hospitalizations are down, infections are down and deaths are down. Dramatically. I think it’s okay for certain ‘political’ decisions to be changed. A seperate topic but the dumbest mandate is wearing a mask while walking to your table at a restaurant just to take it off; hopefully that’s next to go.

      • James February 16, 2022 (4:42 pm)

        Please elaborate on why it is dumb to attempt to minimize the amount of aerosolized matter that a potentially infectious person distributes around a restaurant? Do you hold your breath while walking to/from the table?

        • Westwood February 16, 2022 (5:00 pm)

          If you cannot see how ridiculous that practice is, I have little hope for you. 

          • James February 16, 2022 (5:23 pm)

            Asking people who are wandering around a restaurant to wear a mask to minimize the spread of a virus that is transmitted by the air that person is expelling is a bad idea?   Is there some science to support your claim so that I may have hope for you?

        • Upper Faunt February 16, 2022 (7:26 pm)

          James; I’m open minded. Can you share a credible source for how wearing a mask from restaurant entry to table then everyone removing their masks, talking, eating, drinking, coughing, etc dramatically helps us all?The other day I wore a mask at Agave (which I love!) in the junction for all of 5 feet before being seated just to remove it so I find it silly.

      • Adam February 16, 2022 (5:30 pm)

        Um, plenty of ppl are saying it’s over or nearly over. Namely, the experts typically charged of determining those things.

    • WS Guy February 16, 2022 (3:49 pm)

      They didn’t say it was over.  Oh no.  In fact Dr. Jeff Duchin decisively and firmly stated:

      “I am OPTIMISTIC that OVER THE LONG TERM we are HEADED TOWARDS a time when covid-19 will pose LESS OF A THREAT to individuals…”

    • Ron Swanson February 16, 2022 (4:25 pm)

      It’s over because the data says so…R is below 1, hospitalizations and patients on ventilators are trending steadily downwards.  This is a sensible step in keeping with the data, shortly to be followed by the removal of the indoor mask mandate. 

      • The King February 16, 2022 (5:51 pm)

        Data also says water is wet. When is it going to be brought to the table that this has become seasonal like other illnesses. Possibly to never go away. Every year “oh my god, it’s December and deaths are up” and in April “we are bringing this pandemic to its knees, your welcome”. 

    • Wseattlite February 16, 2022 (10:38 pm)

      Exactly the same way there is only a pandemic until we say so.   Very expedient for some.  

  • Jay February 16, 2022 (3:52 pm)

    Keeping masks but getting rid of vaccine mandates… based on all the data we have it seems like they should be doing the exact opposite.

    • Walker February 16, 2022 (4:51 pm)

      Agreed. It seems as though the vaccinated will continue to be punished because of the unvaccinated. Constant masking is a true hassle, a shot in the arm once or twice a year is not.

    • InSouthDelridge February 16, 2022 (5:09 pm)

      Agree Jay. I’d rather show proof of vax to enter a restaurant or business establishment where I know people will be dropping masks. As the directive stands, there’s now no way to know if you’re eating or socializing aside someone who is unvaccinated. I hope the restaurant business will not suffer further but until the babies can be vaccinated or the virus goes away completely there will be many to whom this is deal breaker for being indoors.

  • Rara February 16, 2022 (4:57 pm)

    This is great! 

  • Lucy February 16, 2022 (6:06 pm)

    If you want to wear a mask,  then wear a mask. If you don’t,  then don’t.  But.  Shouldn’t we be free to choose?

    • heartless February 16, 2022 (7:35 pm)

      Everyone has always been free to choose, just like they can choose to go barefoot.

      If you wanna wear shoes, wear shoes, if you don’t, then don’t.  You’re free to choose.

      Of course businesses should also be free to choose, and plenty will refuse you service if you choose to not wear shoes.  It’s funny, though, how rarely people complain about that.  Makes you wonder…

      • Sam February 16, 2022 (9:35 pm)

        Plenty of businesses do not support a mask mandate, so I don’t think you’re making the point you think you are

        • heartless February 17, 2022 (8:05 am)

          Where did I write about a mandate? 

          (But if you only want to talk about mandates, here’s another fun thought experiment, think about how many restaurants are/were against health safety standards (including, for example, the requirements for food-handlers to wear gloves (hand masks, really, no?  what about freedom for the fingers?!)) the government imposes on them.  That should be fun for Lucy, too.

    • Hanna February 16, 2022 (9:11 pm)

      Statistically, wearing a mask (to varying degrees, depending on the type) keeps others safe from you if you’re infected, not nearly as effectively when it’s the other way around. High risk individuals should have the freedom to go to work and run errands without putting their lives at risk when simply having everyone wear a mask when out and about indoors can save their lives. (And remember, at risk individuals by and large need to keep their insurance for the autoimmune/chronic illnesses/disabilities that put them at risk; expecting them to just…not exist in society and be able to pay for grocery delivery and not have health insurance through work is cruel–I don’t mean this as a personal attack against what you said, to be super clear! Just stating the thought process that I’m not sure a lot of abled bodied people consider in general. (I see a LOT of “we’ll protect the most vulnerable and the rest of us will live our lives” as though they’re supporting ANY measures to give assistance to our vulnerable populations, and that it’s remotely humane to just expect disabled folks to hide inside forever if they’re worried (about dying!))

      • DJ February 17, 2022 (2:06 pm)

        Statistically, wearing a mask (to varying degrees, depending on the type) keeps others safe from you if you’re infected, “… Citation, please, Hanna

  • k February 16, 2022 (6:52 pm)

    Teacher here. I’m still getting COVID notifications about my students.  Why is this mask thing so hard for people to swallow?  Pretty easy step to follow to try to keep others safe.  The kids can handle it!

    • Lucy February 16, 2022 (8:35 pm)

      No.  No, they can’t.  There is a ton of evidence that masking for kids is detrimental to their mental health.  They are low risk.  Stop sacrificing them for you.  

      • Westwood February 16, 2022 (10:28 pm)

        Please cite at least one credible source to support your claim of “a ton of evidence”. 

        • Pessoa February 17, 2022 (9:58 am)

          For those like you who would probably demand a “credible” source for the claim that water is wet:

          Whatever steps are taken to mitigate the harm done to children by wearing masks,  the fact that it is detrimental to a child’s emotional development.  Some children will not have the same familial resources to mitigate some of the worst effects of mask wearing – you know, like the millions of poor Americans who were crushing by totalitarian mandates.  

          • Math Teacher February 17, 2022 (11:38 am)

            Pessoa’s  Psychology Today parenting blog link advocates mask use for the 2021-22 school year, while suggesting that parents and teachers speak loudly and clearly, and use more language.  From Pessoa’s link:

            1. “Learning how to interpret language and read emotions from masked faces may ultimately enhance your child’s social and emotional development since they may learn to notice more subtle social cues, such as tone of voice and body language.”
            2. Curious choice of a source for the point you were trying to make.
      • WS Res February 16, 2022 (11:46 pm)

        There is a ton of evidence that masking for kids is detrimental to their mental health – As a mental health professional supervising clinicians who work with kids, I can assure you that is absolutely not true.

        • heartless February 17, 2022 (8:08 am)

          I really enjoy the comments where people drop in and say there’s a ton of evidence for something and don’t mention any of it (nor do they appeal to any ecological validity to explain why there might be evidence).

          Those types of comments should make it into the WSB forum drinking game.

      • anonyme February 17, 2022 (6:20 am)

        “Sacrificing” children?  Here we go again.  Oh, the drama.

        • shotinthefoot February 17, 2022 (2:04 pm)

          @anonyme – seriously. Such histrionics from this crowd. Probably doing more damage to the kids than the masks are! 

    • Amy February 16, 2022 (8:35 pm)

      Thank you! 

  • Jeff February 16, 2022 (7:08 pm)

    End all the restrictions.   I’m tired of making my life worse for the benefit of selfish people that won’t get vaccinated.     I did my part, they can do theirs.   Or not.  At this point I don’t care. 

  • Auntie February 16, 2022 (7:37 pm)

    Have any of you anti-mask, vax-naysayers noticed what’s happening in Denmark now that restrictions have been removed? In warning to U.S., COVID rates soar after Denmark lifts all restrictions (

    • Pessoa February 16, 2022 (9:37 pm)

      Auntie:  And if you read the article thoroughly, the situation is somewhat more complex and nuanced than the sensational title of the article indicates.   

      • heartless February 17, 2022 (8:10 am)

        Thanks for saving me the trouble!

    • rocket February 16, 2022 (10:33 pm)

      Did you read the whole article or just the headline and first paragraph.  The article provides a well reasoned consideration of the data which says that yes cases increased but deaths due to Covid didnt and havent so not a big deal.  This bug is not going away anytime soon or ever.  In places with high vaccine rates and available hospital beds its totally appropriate to back off of required mitigation measures and let individuals use recommendations to guide their process.

    • Wseattleite February 16, 2022 (10:43 pm)

      Rates are the wrong metric to evaluate risk. It’s more complicated than you wish it to be. Science you know….

    • Ws February 17, 2022 (7:04 am)

      Here’s an article from the Danish government about the misinformation currently spreading around regarding Covid rates. Not a problem and life is back to normal. 

  • CarDriver February 16, 2022 (7:43 pm)

    Lucy. You are free to choose. But if you get someone else sick, what will you tell them??  I bet it would be “too bad. My rights are more important than your rights”. And if YOU (or a family member) get sick it’ll be “It’s your fault because you weren’t masked!! 

    • Bronson February 17, 2022 (2:43 pm)

      Why would you tell them anything? First of all, no one really knows who infects them. Secondly, it is on each of us to take the precautions that we feel are necessary, particularly since vaccines are widely available and effective. Still terrified, wear an N95.  As you should know by your name, there is now more risk in getting into your car and driving than if you are vaccinated and catch COVID. 

  • SN February 16, 2022 (8:08 pm)

    Glad to read this as well

  • Mj February 16, 2022 (10:34 pm)

    There is a middle position, it’s to allow all vaccinated and people who have had Covid (natural immunity), including students, to ditch the mask if they choose.  

    • k February 17, 2022 (1:18 pm)

      I would argue that the middle position would be to invest in better ventilation and HEPA filters in schools, and increase capacity of our healthcare system rather than continuing with the for-profit model that keeps hospitals close to capacity in the best of times.  Investing in infrastructure has always been the alternative to this on/off switch of restrictions, but no one wants to pay for it so we’ve been stuck with mandates instead.  I think people forget how much the restrictions have been about keeping hospitals from getting overwhelmed so that those with heart attacks and other illness can get treatment when they need it. COVID isn’t the only piece of the puzzle.  

  • shotinthefoot February 17, 2022 (9:49 am)

    after reading these comments, I am going to mask forever in West Seattle. Some of y’all are bonkers. 

  • James February 17, 2022 (9:58 am)

    One step closer to getting back to sanity. It will be nice to be able to have my kids come back home to continue their schooling. We were burning a lot of fossil fuels visiting them out of state, all so they could experience completely normal schooling and a living experience. Crazy how half the country has been completely normal this entire time, but we’ve been locked into the political-safety theater of masking and vax-passports.

  • JJ February 18, 2022 (4:13 am)

    Covid isn’t done. My aunt’s best friend just died. He was unvaccinated and just went on vacation to Texas for some “freedom”. Halfway through the drive home he started feeling really poorly, and died in a hospital in California. I guess Washington with all it’s protections had him feeling pretty cocky and invincible. Our masks and mandates have failed a lot of people, but they had been enough to protect him, up to this point. Not so much in Texas. My poor aunt.

Sorry, comment time is over.