The availability of multiple coronavirus vaccines at the start of 2021 left many to hope the pandemic would soon be a thing of the past. Lagging vaccination rates and a dramatic increase in cases and hospitalizations are stark reminders the pandemic is far from over.
While we are thankful the state fully reopened, the delta variant is spreading rapidly. The state’s health care system is once again under strain. Local governments began issuing mask mandates to limit the spread of the virus. And now a statewide mask mandate has been announced.
State and local guidance and requirements continue to change regularly. We will continue to send you updates as new public health requirements are imposed. And we will post all new information on the Current Guidance and Requirements page on the Washington Hospitality Association Coronavirus Resource Hub.
Below are resources and options as you consider mask and vaccine policies that work best for your business.
Masks are now mandatory
As of Monday, Aug. 23, a statewide mandatory mask mandate for indoor public settings, regardless of vaccination status, will be in place until further notice by order of Gov. Jay Inslee. The order applies to public settings like restaurants, clubs and hotels.
Like the previous masking orders, this latest order has several exceptions. Masks are not required while people are actively eating or drinking. People performing in the arts, such as playing live music, are not required to wear face masks. However, spectators of that performance, such as people dancing to the live music, are required to wear masks unless they are also actively eating or drinking.
There is also an exception for work settings with 100% fully vaccinated employees and no public face-to-face interaction.
While this order does not apply to outdoor settings, The Washington State Department of Health strongly recommends all people, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in crowded outdoor settings.
[UPDATE: Aug. 24 – An outdoor mask mandate was issued in Oregon by Gov. Kate Brown effective Friday Aug. 27.]
Latest COVID-19 modeling & surveillance situation report shows current #COVID19 cases & hospital admissions at their highest levels to date. Upward trends are likely to continue in the coming month due to the delta variant.
— WA Dept. of Health (@WADeptHealth) August 19, 2021
Vaccines options to consider
Reports of bars and restaurants requiring proof of vaccination are emerging all over the country. Dozens of Seattle- and Tacoma-area bars and restaurants have adopted vaccine requirements for guests.
As an employer, you have several options to consider.
- require your employees to get the coronavirus vaccine as a condition of employment,
- require your guests to show proof of full vaccination as a condition of entry onto the premises,
- require both employees and guests to be fully vaccinated
- require proof of a negative COVID test within the last xx hours (48-72 hours is a common window) as an alternative to being vaccinated.
- Not require proof of vaccination for employees or guests.
There are several legal issues to consider related to vaccine policies. Please join us live (or revisit this page for a link to the replay) for our upcoming webinar with employment law attorney Catharine Morisset regarding this issue. (More information and registration details below.)
If you adopt a guest vaccine requirement, there are a few methods you can use for verification. Most people don’t carry their vaccine cards with them and instead have a photo of their card in their smartphones. Many businesses accept this method accompanied by a photo ID.
Other verification methods include the official CDC vaccine card (although watch out for counterfeit cards on the rise), a downloaded or screenshot health record and various vaccine passport apps that are now coming online.
[Ask a Lawyer] Vaccine policies with employment law attorney Catharine Morisset
The law, various health department rules, CDC guidelines, and best practices on mask and vaccine policies continue to change and evolve as has been the case throughout the pandemic. We sat down with Catharine Morisset, employment law attorney with Fisher & Phillips, for updated answers to some FAQs regarding vaccines.
Below is summary of Catharine’s answers to vaccine questions. Head on over to the member-only HUB for her more detailed explanations on these complex issues.
Catharine also joined us for our most recent Ask a Lawyer webinar where she discussed the new legal developments on masks and vaccines. Head over to the member-only HUB to watch that replay and hear Catharine’s answers to member questions.
How do I implement a mandatory vaccine program for my guests?
- Decide why – Make sure you have sound business reasons for requiring vaccines for your guests.
- Communicate your policy – Have a plan in place to communicate the details of your policy, including the reasons for it, on the various channels you use to connect with your customers.
- Be ready for accommodation requests – Have customer service alternatives ready such as outdoor dining and to-go options for unvaccinated guests.
How do I implement a mandatory vaccine program for my employees?
Similar to guests, follow the three steps: decide, communicate, accommodate.
What does it mean to be fully vaccinated?
A person is fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the:
- second dose of the two-dose series vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna)
- single-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson).
How can I verify my workers have been fully vaccinated?
Acceptable verification methods include:
- visual inspection or copy of a CDC vaccine card
- doctor’s note
- state immunization record
- hard copy or electronic signed employee attestation
Remember such information should be treated as confidential medical information.
What if I don’t believe the employee’s accommodation request is based on a bona fide, sincerely held, religious belief?
Be careful. Denying an accommodation because you think the belief is not religious or sincere is risky. Employers should first check with an employment law attorney.
Sample forms & model policies
These forms are samples only and are not intended as legal advice. Please consult your legal advisor for information specific to your business.
- Sample attestation form for employee verification of COVID-19 vaccination
- L&I info sheet on changing mask and vaccine guidance (recommended to provide to employee if using verification form)
- Model mandatory vaccine policy (Fisher Phillips)
- Model non-mandatory vaccine policy (Fisher Phillips)
- Accommodation procedure (Fisher Phillips)
- Request For medical exemption/accommodation related to vaccine (Fisher Phillips)
- Request For religious exemption/accommodation related to vaccine (Fisher Phillips)
Aug. 23 – Washington’s Latest Indoor Masking Mandate Officially Goes Into Effect (Eater Seattle)
Washington Hospitality Association
Current Guidance and Requirements
National Restaurant Association
Restaurant Guidance: Legal Issues to Consider Regarding COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccine Policies
Taking a Shot at COVID-19: What Restaurants Need To Know About Vaccinating their Workforce
Nationwide tracker for state and local mask mandates and COVID-19 related requirements
Vaccination mandates: How to handle asking for proof
Use science to make your case for mask, vaccine mandates
Vaccine & mask mandates webinar: Use science to make your case
Department of Health (DOH)
Face Coverings and Masks
Department of Labor & Industries (L&I)
Mask and Distancing Requirements (6.30.21)
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
CDC: When you’ve been fully vaccinated (5.16.21)