UPDATE | Mixed response on mandate to show proof of COVID-19 vaccinations

Praise, complaints follow new mandate

Brian Kelly and Laura Jean Schneider news@ptleader.com
Posted 9/11/21

Jefferson and Clallam counties became the first in Washington state to require people patronizing bars or restaurants to show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The new mandate …

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UPDATE | Mixed response on mandate to show proof of COVID-19 vaccinations

Praise, complaints follow new mandate

Posted

Jefferson and Clallam counties became the first in Washington state to require people patronizing bars or restaurants to show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The new mandate started Saturday.

Jefferson County Public Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry issued a public health order adopting the new requirement Thursday, Sept. 2.

“Indoor bars and restaurants are known to pose a high risk for COVID-19 transmission, as they encourage unmasking of large groups of people indoors,” Berry said in Thursday’s announcement.

“Our goal is to make these safer places to be and to reduce transmission in our communities, allowing our hospitals to keep functioning and our schools to open more safely this fall,” she added.

The new rule will also cover restaurants and bars in Clallam County, where Berry is also the public health officer.

The mandate does not include children under 12 who cannot be vaccinated.

The health order prompted instant outrage on social media, and also spurred a protest Saturday at the Clallam County Courthouse.

Local officials praised the move.

“I fully support the health officers order,” Jefferson County Commissioner Kate Dean said late last week.

“We have a lot of data that suggests restaurants and bars are a primary place of transmission,” she said. “For the general public and service workers we need to make those places as safe as possible.”

Dean said county officials realize the restrictions may place greater stress on businesses and employees, and said the county will be working on signage and a communications strategy so the public is well aware of the rules before they visit a restaurant or bar.

The outcry over the proof-of-vaccination mandate was immediate, however.

Dean said she knows that some are not happy with the requirement.

She noted the great outpouring of online comments, many not in support of the mandate, that had been posted to the health department’s Facebook page.

Within the span of a few hours Wednesday, more than 1,400 comments had been posted about the mandate.

Dean likened the restriction to “no shirt, no shoes, no service” rules long enforced by businesses.

“People have a lot of options on where and how they can get food. But sitting indoors during a pandemic is a privilege,” she said.

SOME HAPPY, SOME NOT

Reaction to the mandate was mixed by people in the hospitality business.

“I’m actually pretty happy about it because it means we won’t shut down,” said Beth Diodene, a server at The Fountain Cafe.

“I think the people who are not vaxxed will boycott the restaurant,” Diodene added.

She said she was not concerned about losing business, stating that the cafe has been booked solid with reservations for the past two months.

“Of course it’s another kind of setback for the restaurant industry,” said Gary Keister, owner of the Old Alcohol Plant and Spirits Bar and Lounge.

Even so, he said he was “totally in favor” of supporting the health department’s mandate.

People have been very cooperative with masking up, Keister said.

“Some folks will balk,” he said of the new vaccination mandate, but he emphasized that for the better good of the whole community, he feels the move is necessary.

Guests to the restaurant will be met by a series of three signs as they transition from the parking lot to the restaurant, he said. At the reception area, a staff member will check vaccination status. Guests who are staying in the hotel will be pre-screened for dining.

Berry said she didn’t expect all businesses impacted by the mandate to be immediately in compliance.

“We do anticipate it will take a little while for businesses to get used to the new rules and start applying them,” she said.

The county can take enforcement action against restaurants or bars that don’t comply, she added, and it’s something that’s been done before, such as when some businesses refused to comply with masking orders earlier during the pandemic.

Restaurants and bars that flout the mandate face the possibility of losing their food permits, and the county can also ask the state to suspend liquor licenses.

Berry said the goal of the health department is to reach voluntary compliance.

On rare occasions where a business refuses to abide, the business is given 72 hours to come into compliance, Berry said.

Restaurant and tavern employees, she said, are at risk because their work places are one of the few places where people inside will be unmasked.

“Our hope is that the public will be thoughtful about that. If they don’t like the regulation, I’m happy to take it,” she said of criticism over the mandate.

People unhappy with the new requirement shouldn’t blame local businesses that must adhere to the health order, Berry said.

“Don’t take it out on them,” she said.

“This is to reduce transmission in our community so our health system can continue to function, so our schools can stay open, and also to protect those vulnerable workers,” Berry said.

Concern over the mandate from critics — as well as what some called a “courgeous” move by Berry — dominated the discussion during Monday’s meeting of the board of county commissioners.

OUTBREAKS SPUR CHANGE

Public health officials said acceptable forms of proof of vaccination include a completed vaccination card from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; a Washington State Department of Health certificate of COVID-19 vaccination; a printed copy of a state Department of Health vaccine record; a photograph of any of those documents; or an app-based vaccine passport.

According to Barry’s order, there have been 495 COVID-19 outbreaks that have been traced to bars and restaurants in Washington state.

“Localized transmission of COVID-19 and outbreaks related to restaurants and bars have been documented in Jefferson County,” Barry noted in the order. “Indoor bars and restaurants are known to pose a high risk for COVID-19 transmission as they encourage unmasking of large groups of people indoors.”

Health officials said there had been “several” COVID outbreaks in Jefferson and Clallam counties, according to data that local officials had received from the state Department of Health.

Health officials said a person is considered fully vaccinated when they have received all the required doses of a vaccine for COVID-19 and two weeks have passed since the final dose. Two doses are required for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, while one is required for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The new restriction does not mandate that restaurant and bar employees who wear masks must provide proof of vaccination.

A MODERATE APPROACH

Berry said the new rule would be less costly to businesses than limiting the number of indoor patrons.

“Given the ability of the Delta variant to spread beyond 6 feet when people are unmasked indoors, we believe that a vaccine requirement will be more effective and less costly than the capacity limitations we saw last year,” Berry said.

“We want to keep businesses open while protecting the public. This is how we do it,” she added.

Health officials reported 749 total cases of COVID-19 in Jefferson County Friday.

Health officials noted that 94 percent of the people in Washington state who have been hospitalized for COVID-19 have been unvaccinated, and 92 percent of the deaths in Washington due to the coronavirus have involved unvaccinated people.

In Jefferson County, a total of 50 people have been hospitalized due to the disease.

Six people in Jefferson County have died from COVID-19.

Statewide, there have been 6,691 deaths and 32,236 hospitalizations because of the coronavirus through Sept. 2.

Berry stressed Thursday that people who have not been vaccinated should get jabbed.

“With hospitals around our region stretched to the breaking point, we need to do everything we can to keep our communities safe,” Berry said. “Getting vaccinated with this incredible vaccine, which is safe, effective, free and life-saving, is simply the right thing to do.”

Comments

2 comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Tom Camfield

Regarding the accompanying story, Jefferson and Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry noted: “the great outpouring of online comments, many not in support of the mandate, that had been posted to the health department’s Facebook page.”

Within the span of a few hours Wednesday, more than 1,400 comments had been posted about the mandate. Who ARE these people (the ones opposing restrictions?) And why are people still overcrowding our hospitals? It’s tough these days to get facilities even for elective surgery of other sorts.

Sunday, September 12
Dage Corvish

The proud patriots are now sending death threats to Dr. Berry (kuow 9/14).

Thinking they are protecting our freedoms, they haven't yet realized the actual freedom fighters are already vaccinated and would be happy to accept them into the ranks, but no, it's all a great conspiracy to deprive us of our rights when the actual deprivation is at their hands.

Thanks, patriots?

Tuesday, September 14