On Wednesday, June 9, Mayor Jenny Durkan shared some good news on the COVID vaccine front, announcing that Seattle was the first big city in the U.S. to fully vaccinate 70 percent of its eligible residents. In addition, 78 percent of those 12 years of age or older have gotten at least one shot. “Seattle is America’s most vaccinated major city, and it would not have been possible without our residents’ commitment to protecting themselves, their loved ones and our entire community,” Durkan said in a statement.
Those numbers represent significant milestones, but it appears that most existing COVID policies will not change in the immediate future as a result.
In May, Public Health Seattle & King County (PHSKC) issued a directive that strongly advises all residents to keep their faces covered indoors, including restaurants, whether fully vaccinated or not. This was stricter than the guidance from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which said that vaccinated people could go without masks in certain indoor settings, even as it came with a goal. According to the original language, King County’s directive will remain in effect until 70 percent or more of adults 16 years of age and older are fully vaccinated — so it would seem that the guidance will be lifted soon.
But the health department clarified to Eater Seattle that it doesn’t consider full immunization to occur until two weeks after people receive their second COVID Moderna or Pfizer shot (or single Johnson & Johnson shot). And the county’s vaccination dashboard only reflects people who have finished their vaccine series, without accounting for the two-week waiting period. Additionally, only 68 percent of King County as a whole have received both doses to date. Thus, a spokesperson for PHSKC estimates that lifting the mask directive likely won’t happen until the last week of June, even if the county’s dashboard reports that 70 percent of residents have been fully vaccinated.
Confusing COVID numbers aren’t limited to King County. According to Gov. Jay Inslee, Washington state tracks different vaccination numbers than the federal government, with the former counting those 16 years of age or older who have been fully vaccinated, and the latter counting only people 18 and older. Inslee has said that the state could fully reopen sooner than June 30 — meaning no capacity limits on restaurants — if 70 percent of people 16 years of age or older were vaccinated. But Washington isn’t quite there yet, per the state’s latest dashboard.
On the same day Durkan announced that Seattle had hit the 70 percent “fully vaccinated” mark, Inslee said Washington’s recent efforts to add a cash lottery incentive for vaccinations has shown promise, with June 7 seeing the largest uptick in appointments in the past two weeks. It remains unclear whether the increase in activity will lead to an early reopening, though. As it stands, local restaurants will likely still need to plan for June 30 as the date when full capacity comes back.