Washington state sports venues, such as the Seattle Mariners' SAFECO Field, can boost capacity by adding "vaccinated-only" sections, even under stricter COVID-19 restrictions. File photo by Jim Bryant/UPI | License Photo
May 3 (UPI) -- Sports stadiums, entertainment venues and churches in Washington state can set up "vaccinated only" sections to increase their capacities under COVID-19 restrictions, Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday.
Inslee issued new guidance affecting sporting events, graduations, religious services and other activities even as many parts of the state appeared poised to re-enter stricter "Phase 2" restrictions due to a recent surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the Pacific Northwest.
The Phase 2 rules cap capacities of most venues at 25%, but under Monday's update, outdoor facilities such as sports stadiums are now allowed to add vaccinated sections until their total capacity is 50% maximum or 22,000 people, whichever is lower.
Indoor venues, meanwhile, can seat to up to 2,000 people or 50% maximum by adding vaccinated sections, while religious and faith-based organizations with vaccinated-only sections can increase overall facility capacities to 50%.
The changes are effective immediately, Inslee said.
To be seated in the new "vaccinated-only" sections, attendees will need to present either a vaccination card, a photo of a vaccination card or other documentation from a healthcare provider, such as an electronic health record or state Immunization Information System record.
The Washington State Department of Health is expected Tuesday to announce a list of counties headed back into Phase 2 -- likely including King County, which encompasses the city of Seattle.
Health officials say they are dealing with a "fourth wave" of COVID-19 infections, which is driving a trend of significantly higher hospitalization rates. As of last week, the number of people hospitalized in Washington had nearly doubled from late March to around 600, according to state hospital association officials.
The Los Angeles Dodgers last week announced they are providing "fully-vaccinated only" sections for each game during a nine-game homestand later this month against the Seattle Mariners, Miami Marlins and Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Dodgers said they are offering a 20% discount off similarly positioned tickets "to further encourage Angelenos to become vaccinated."
National Institutes of Health official Dr. Anthony Fauci (C) speaks about the coronavirus during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Alexander Azar (L) announced that the United States is declaring the virus a public health emergency and issued a federal quarantine order of 14 days for 195 Americans. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo