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Inslee orders proof of vaccine or negative COVID-19 test at large events

A half filled out vaccination card
Derek Wang

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday announced a statewide requirement that attendees at large events show proof of being vaccinated against COVID-19 or proof of a negative test taken in the 72 hours before the event.

The new mandate takes effect on Monday, November 15. It applies to attendees 12 and older at indoor events with 1,000 or more attendees and at outdoor events with 10,000 or more participants.

For the time being, Inslee’s office said, the mandate only applies to “ticketed or registered” events like concerts and sporting events. It does not apply to religious services or school-based events.

Some Washington counties have already imposed even broader mandates.

In King County, for instance, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test will soon be required to enter bars, restaurants and other venues, as well as to attend outdoor events with 500 or more people. That order takes effect October 25.

Previously, professional sports teams like the Seattle Seahawks, Sounders and Kraken required fans attending their games to be vaccinated or show proof of a negative test.

In September, as COVID cases skyrocketed, the health officer for Jefferson and Clallam Counties on the Olympic Peninsula enacted an even stricter mandate, requiring proof of vaccination to enter indoor bars and restaurants, with no option to show a negative test result.

“We want to keep businesses open while protecting the public. This is how we do it,” said Dr. Allison Berry, the health officer, in a statement at the time.

The order spawned heated protests and prompted a complaint to the state’s Board of Health.

Inslee’s announcement comes just days before his October 18 deadline for state employees, health care and long-term care workers and those working in educational settings to prove they’re vaccinated, or lose their jobs.

The order covers more than 800,000 public and private sector employees. So far, more than 90 percent of the roughly 60,000 state employees who are subject to the mandate have verified they are vaccinated.

About 5,000 workers have been granted religious or medical exemptions, but so far only about 31 percent of those with exemptions are receiving accommodations from their agencies that will allow them to keep working.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."