Two-and-a-half months after the delta variant of the coronavirus started chewing through the unvaccinated population, this afternoon Seattle and King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin finally issued a widely anticipated health order requiring vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test for all outdoor events with 500 people or more and many indoor activities, such as "live music, performing arts, gyms, restaurants and bars," according to a press release from the King County Executive's office.
Relevant companies must comply by October 25, though "restaurants with seating capacity for 12 and under" can wait until December 6. The new requirements also do not apply to "outdoor dining, take-out customers, and places that aren’t primarily used as a restaurant, such as grocery stores."
According to the release, "continued high levels of preventable COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and increased deaths driven by the Delta variant, serious stress on our regional healthcare system, and concern for a significant outbreak resurgence this fall and winter" prompted local officials to act. The county basically frames the decision as a binary: we either require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, or else we have to start locking down.
The health department's decision comes after other jurisdictions in Washington and across the US implemented similar measures, including the entire state of California, New York City, and Jefferson and Clallam Counties.
During a press conference this afternoon, officials plan to point to a University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) analysis showing that "the vaccine verification policy at restaurants, bars and gyms/fitness centers alone could have a significant positive impact, preventing between 17,900 and 75,900 infections, 421 and 1,760 hospitalizations and 63 and 257 deaths locally over six months with the order in place."
King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, Dr. Duchin, and representatives from big and small businesses and arts institutions plan to attend the conference in a show of unity.
Acceptable forms of vaccination proof include your CDC-issued vax card or a photo of it, a digital or printed version of your Washington state COVID certificate from MyIRMobile.com, or any "other official immunization record from within or outside the United States, including from your health care provider." You won't need to pair this proof with any other form of personal identification.
Acceptable COVID tests include a negative PCR in the last 72 hours, or a negative from a rapid result test delivered on site.
County representatives said they will review the temporary order "no later than six months" after October 25 to decide whether to extend it or not.
In the meantime, the "nearly 300,000" King County residents who are eligible for a shot but who refuse because of some unfounded ball stuff Nicki Minaj keeps talking about need to get off their asses and get the vaccine so that we can resume complaining about each other in person rather than on the damn computer!!!!
This is a developing story and I will update this post if they say anything funny or interesting at the press conference.