Vaccine proof or negative test soon required at large events

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Starting Nov. 15, people in Washington state will need to either provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test in order to attend large events, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday.

The new order — which Inslee's staff said is modeled after similar policies in California and King County — applies to indoor events with 1,000 or more attendees and outdoor events that have more than 10,000 attendees. Events will be required to verify full vaccination status or a negative test within the last 72 hours for all attendees who are age 12 or older.

The governor's office said the requirement applies to ticketed or registered events like conventions, concerts, sporting events and fairs. Religious services or events that are held on K-12 school grounds are exempt from the order.

“The status quo is not adequate,” Inslee said. “We do not have enough protections, we do not have enough people vaccinated to give Washingtonians confidence that another wave is not going to hit us.”

As of this week, more than 77% of people age 12 and older have initiated vaccination in Washington state and more than 71% are fully vaccinated.

There have been more than 610,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases — plus about 79,000 “probable” cases — in Washington state, and 8,152 deaths.

King County — home to Seattle — issued an order that takes effect Oct. 25 and requires proof of vaccination or a negative test for outdoor events with 500 or more people, indoor entertainment and recreational events and indoor dining at restaurants and bars.

And starting last month, California has required either proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test for indoor gatherings of 1,000 or more. California's rule recommends, but doesn't require, vaccine proof or negative tests for outdoor events of 10,000 people or more.

The latest requirement in Washington comes as a crucial deadline for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate approaches Monday that requires more than 800,000 workers in the state to either be fully vaccinated or have received an exemption and job accommodation in order to keep their jobs. The mandate applies to most state workers, long-term care employees, and teachers and staff at the state’s schools, including the state’s colleges and universities. The only opt-out is a medical or religious exemption, though the exemption only ensures continued employment if a job accommodation can be made.

The governor’s Office of Financial Management on Monday released updated numbers that show nearly 90% of the 61,821 state workers covered by the mandate have been vaccinated as of last week, up from just 49% a month ago. More than 1,500 employees have received either a medical or religious exemption and have been accommodated by their agencies, according to the state, which increases the vaccination rate of non-accommodated employees to 92%. And the Washington State Hospital Association said this week that nearly 90% of Washington’s hospital staff statewide are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Inslee said he would not be extending the Oct. 18 deadline or changing the requirements.

“It is a fair thing not to allow public servants to infect the public,” Inslee said. “We want to serve the public, not infect the public.”