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COVID-19

King County ending vaccine requirement at bars, restaurants

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine show proof of their COVID vaccinations on their phones to a cashier at Cafe Allegro in Seattle.
Bellamy Pailthorp
/
KNKX
King County Executive Dow Constantine and then-Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan show proof of their COVID vaccinations on their phones to a cashier at Cafe Allegro in Seattle in October 2021.

Washington's most populous county will no longer require COVID vaccination checks to enter restaurants, bars, theaters and gyms beginning March 1.

King County officials made the announcement Wednesday. Businesses will be free to impose their own vaccination requirements if they choose, but there will be no countywide requirement.

Since last fall, indoor eateries and cultural and recreational spaces have been required to verify their customers’ vaccination status or a negative COVID test as a condition for entry.

The policy has also applied to outdoor events with more than 500 people, like concerts and sporting events.

“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,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said Wednesday.

Constantine and Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell also announced that thousands of King County and Seattle city employees will be asked to return to their offices next month after working remotely for nearly two years. Constantine says shifting back to in-person work will help get the economy going.

"We, the city, private employers really want to get our employees back interacting in person. And I got to tell you that as a resident of the city and county, I want those employees visiting our local restaurants and helping our economy get back on its feet," Constantine said.

King County has an estimated 7,000 employees who have been working remotely, and Seattle has about 5,000. The county and city both say work arrangements might still include some hybrid or remote work options.

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Mayowa Aina reports and produces special projects, including podcasts and series, for KNKX. Mayowa started her public radio career at KUOW in Seattle. She's worked at NPR in Washington, D.C. and Alaska Public Media before moving back to her hometown of Tacoma to work at KNKX.