UPDATED 9.17.21 to include the full statement from Anthony Anton, President and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association and provide more context around the advocacy efforts of the association’s government affairs team.
King County officials announced today they are moving forward with a vaccine requirement for guests entering restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters, music venues and large sporting venues. This new vaccine requirement goes into effect on Oct. 25 for most businesses that are subject to the new policy. This is not expected to be a permanent policy. King County officials will review the policy no later than six months from Oct. 25 for possible extension based on future outbreak conditions.
Hospitality guests 12 years of age and older will be required to show proof of vaccination, a negative COVID-19 test (within the last 72 hours), or a negative COVID-19 rapid test result performed on site by a testing provider to enter restaurants, bars, gyms and large sporting venues.
County officials are adopting this new policy in response to the rapid spread of the delta variant and rising hospitalization rates. The Washington Hospitality Association’s government affairs team has been working with local officials to ensure member concerns are considered as new public health orders are issued.
Below is a statement from Anthony Anton, President and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association, on the announcement by King County that restaurants will need to verify vaccine status for all guests:
“The Washington Hospitality Association, on behalf of thousands of members across the state, is proud to have worked as a partner to public health departments and state and local elected leaders throughout the pandemic. We continue to be prepared to do our part — but we can’t be the only ones.
“COVID is a community problem that requires a community solution. Today’s announcement isn’t anywhere near that: It creates different standards for different types of eating places — and no additional standards for most businesses. The data shows without a doubt that COVID spreads everywhere, and any policy to reduce the spread must similarly apply everywhere. Anything less than that amounts to using our industry — which has been the hardest hit by far — as a carrot-and-stick for the small percentage of people in King County who have been unwilling to be vaccinated.
“We will continue working to be part of a solution based on science. In the meantime, please be kind to our hospitality staff as we work to stop the spread of COVID.”
Once it became clear county officials were moving toward a vaccine mandate, our government affairs (GA) team advocated for several improvements to the policy to minimize the negative impacts to hospitality businesses. Improvements that the GA team helped secure include an exemption for outdoor, take out, and drive-thru service, multiple options for vaccination proof, testing alternatives, a date certain for the policy to be reviewed, and a delayed implementation date to give people enough time to get vaccinated.
Below are key details of the new King County policy that impact hospitality businesses:
- Hospitality guests 12 years of age and older will be required to show proof of vaccination, a negative COVID-19 test (within the last 72 hours), or a negative COVID-19 rapid test result performed on site by a testing provider to enter restaurants, bars, gyms and large sporting venues.
- This requirement will not apply to guests staying in hotels but will apply to patrons dining in the hotel restaurant.
- Proof of ID is not required, although operators may require ID as part of their guest policy.
- It will not require, but strongly recommends, employers to adopt a mandatory vaccine policy for their employees.
- Employers with 100 or more employees may be impacted by a new worker vaccine requirement being developed by the Biden administration.
- The vaccine requirement only applies to indoor service. Unvaccinated guests may continue to receive outdoor and take-out service.
- Existing mask requirements remain unchanged.
- Acceptable forms of vaccination proof include:
- CDC COVID-19 vaccine record card or photo of vaccine card
- Printed certificate or QR code from MyIRMobile.com
- Other official immunization record or photo from within or outside the U.S., including from your health care provider.
- Smaller restaurants will be given more time to comply. Restaurants with a seating capacity of 12 people or fewer will need to verify vaccination status of guests starting Dec. 6.
Like with other previous public health mandates, the burden will be on businesses to verify vaccination status. Clear and consistent communication with your guests as soon as possible about the new policy will be important for successful implementation.
Also consider posting signs about this new policy for your guests. Check out the many options you can download from our coronavirus signage library.
Additional FAQs for businesses
King County is Vaccine Verified
Get vaccinated against COVID-19
Get verification for your COVID-19 vaccine status
Vaccination mandates: How to handle asking for proof
Conflict De-escalation: COVID-19 Precautions