OLYMPIA, Wash. — Under new COVID-19 guidance from Gov. Jay Inslee, the state is giving churches and other public venues an incentive to segregate attenders between those vaccinated and those not.
As reported by various media, Inslee last month said creating a separate vaccinated section could allow a boost to 50 percent capacity at sporting events, graduations and religious services.
Inslee announced the right for churches and spectator events at locations in Phases 2 to 3 under the state’s COVID restriction categories to create such seating sections, but with separate entrances for the vaccinated and unvaccinated. Inslee was sharply criticized at both local and national levels.
Jason Rantz, a talk host on Seattle conservative radio station KTTH, charged that Inslee “is doing everything short of mandating a vaccine to try to force you into getting one.”
Mat Staver, former dean of Liberty University’s law school in Virginia and chairman of the nonprofit Christian legal rights organization Liberty Counsel, said Inslee was “dangling the freedom carrot” but actually is restricting freedoms.
Staver wrote: “The governor of Washington state just created a two-tiered system that will have the effect of telling people where they can and cannot sit inside a church, all based on their vaccine status … We absolutely cannot allow the government to tell people where they can sit in church. Nor can we allow a two-tier system of vaccinated versus unvaccinated people. Satan has been trying to divide the church for centuries.”
But the new guidance was welcomed by a large nondenominational church in Redmond. “Anything that can increase capacity is good news for us,” Tim White, senior at Washington Cathedral, told Seattle’s KING-TV.
Under the guidance, individuals would be admitted to the vaccine-only sections by presenting a card — or digital photo — which includes name, type of vaccine received and date of the last dose administered. To be considered fully vaccinated, individuals must have had both shots of Pfizer or Moderna or the single Johnson & Johnson shot at least two weeks before attending an event. Children ages 2 to 15 may present a negative COVID-19 test result that was taken within 72 hours of admission. Children younger than 2 need to be accompanied by a vaccinated adult.
Outdoor venues such as stadiums can create vaccinated sections until their total capacity reaches 50 percent maximum or 22,000 people, whichever is lower. Indoor facilities could reach 50 percent maximum, or 2,000 people, whichever is lower. Whether inside or outside, mask wearing is still mandated.