King County is working to develop a vaccine verification policy that could go into effect next month at certain nonessential, high-risk settings, the county said Tuesday.

King County’s announcement comes as nearly all major spectator sports in the Seattle area said they would require vaccination (or a recent negative coronavirus test) for admission to their games.

The Seattle Kraken on Tuesday announced that they would require all fans 12 and older to provide proof of vaccination to attend games at Climate Pledge Arena. The Seahawks and Sounders soon followed suit, announcing that vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours of the game would be required for entry to Lumen Field. And the University of Washington said it would do the same at Husky Stadium. The Mariners will require proof of vaccination, but only beginning with any potential postseason games in October.

The county said it is gathering feedback from community organizations, labor unions, businesses and cities. 

After finalizing the vaccination verification policy, unvaccinated residents would have at least five weeks to complete their vaccination series before the requirements of the proposed policy go into effect, likely in October.

“COVID-19 vaccines are safe, highly effective, and readily available, and verifying vaccination in certain nonessential, high-risk settings can make those places safer for the public, workers, and our community, including children who are not currently eligible for vaccination,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, King County’s Health Officer.

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Vaccines are free and health insurance is not required.

Even as the county and much of the country see a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations driven by the more-contagious delta variant, vaccines remain hugely effective against serious illness.

County data shows that the unvaccinated are 49 times more likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, than the fully vaccinated. Countywide hospitalizations have surged in the last six weeks, but they’ve been driven entirely by the unvaccinated. There has been virtually no increase in hospitalizations among the fully vaccinated, according to county data.

Other jurisdictions, including New York, San Francisco and British Columbia, have begun to implement vaccine verification policies.

In King County, more than 84% of the 12-and-older population has at least begun vaccinations, according to county data.

“Vaccine verification is the best way for businesses and gatherings to remain open, vibrant, and at full capacity,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said. “My staff and Public Health officials are continuing to gather feedback and listen to community and business groups in a countywide effort to keep our recovery going, keep people safe, and end this pandemic.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story erroneously stated that King County was developing a vaccine verification system in which those operating public venues and businesses would be able to quickly determine who’s been vaccinated. The county is discussing a policy for non-essential indoor business activities and other venues.

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