King County’s COVID-19 vaccine verification policy in effect for small restaurants, bars on Monday

Restaurants and bars with seating for fewer than 12 customers will be required to verify vaccination status.

KING COUNTY, Wash. — King County’s COVID-19 vaccine verification policy will apply to all restaurants and bars starting Monday.

The mandate, which previously covered large outdoor public events and indoor establishments, will apply to restaurants and bars with seating for fewer than 12 people. The vaccine verification mandate will be in full effect in King County.

“We have heard from businesses that vaccine verification is going well in King County,” Rachel Smith, president and CEO of the Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce, said in a prepared statement. “While it may involve extra work in the short-term, this step is helping customers and staff feel safe as they get back to many of the activities we missed in earlier phases of the pandemic. We support vaccination because we know it’s the path out of the pandemic and toward an equitable economic recovery.” 

Here is how the enforcement process will works.

If Public Health – Seattle & King County receives a complaint about the business, it said it will initially contact the business to inform it of the mandate and the enforcement process.

If the department determines the business is choosing to be out of compliance or if it receives at least three complaints about the business, an inspector will go out to the property to investigate. From there, the inspector could issue a notice of violation, which warns the business could be fined if it doesn’t comply.

If the business still chooses not to comply after a second inspection, the department will issue escalating fines, starting at $250.

Finally, if the business remains out of compliance after multiple inspections and fines, the health department said it may explore temporarily closing the business.

The vaccine verification policy is expected to remain in effect until March 16, 2022, but the health department said the mandate may be adjusted, extended or removed based on the status of COVID-19 in King County.

As of late November, the health department received complaints on about 245 businesses out of more than 10,000 that are covered under the mandate.

The enforcement process comes as Washington state released an online tool, WA Verify, which generates a digital vaccine record and QR code as a new option to verify a person’s vaccination status. Once a customer has saved the card to their cellphone, a business can scan the code to see the customer’s record, including vaccination dates and type.  

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