LA will require proof of Covid vaccination at most indoor venues

Los Angeles, California - The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved a new ordinance that requires proof of vaccination against Covid-19 to enter indoor restaurants, shopping malls, movie theaters, hair and nail salons, and many other indoor venues.

LA City Council voted to introduce a new vaccine ordinance for most indoor venues.
LA City Council voted to introduce a new vaccine ordinance for most indoor venues.  © 123RF/f11photo

The council was scheduled to vote on the law last week but held off when Councilman Joe Buscaino said he would withhold his vote after raising concerns about how the new rules would be enforced.

Buscaino ultimately voted against the ordinance after council members did not agree to several amendments he proposed, including one that would make it a crime to harass or interfere with any employee trying to enforce the rules. He also wanted city analysts to report back on funding sources to help small businesses comply and to ensure police could handle any increased calls tied to the new rules.

No one seconded his motion to amend the law. Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas said the amendments were significant and deserved more vetting in council committees before council members could make a "thoughtful" decision about them.

The vote on the ordinance was 11-2, with Councilman John Lee joining Buscaino in opposing the law.

Law to go into effect in a little more than a month

Mayor Eric Garcetti signed the vaccine ordinance on Wednesday.
Mayor Eric Garcetti signed the vaccine ordinance on Wednesday.  © IMAGO / NurPhoto

Lee said in a statement that he believes the data are clear about the safety and effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines but that the law "is punitive toward businesses, doesn’t provide an incentive to encourage those who are unvaccinated to get the vaccine, and only furthers the patchwork of regulations that exist across the region."

Mayor Eric Garcetti signed the ordinance Wednesday, spokesman Harrison Wollman said.

"These new rules will encourage more people to get the shot, and make businesses safer for workers and customers – so that we can save more lives, better protect the vulnerable, and make our communities even safer as we fight this pandemic," Garcetti said in a statement.

Under the new law, businesses must require proof of vaccination when customers enter indoor facilities, including coffee shops, gyms, museums, bowling alleys, spas, and a range of other venues.

The ordinance states that those requirements go into effect on November 4, but because the law did not garner enough votes to pass with "urgency," it will take a little more than a month from now for the law to officially go into effect, according to the city attorney’s office.

The requirements are set to expire when the city lifts its emergency declaration for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Businesses may be required to publicly announce fines for non-compliance

Vaccines will be required in indoor restaurants, shopping malls, movie theaters, hair and nail salons, and many other indoor venues (stock image).
Vaccines will be required in indoor restaurants, shopping malls, movie theaters, hair and nail salons, and many other indoor venues (stock image).  © 123RF/belchonock

The LA rules allow customers to submit written exemptions for religious or medical reasons, but businesses must require those customers to use outdoor facilities, or to show evidence of a recent negative COVID-19 test to come inside if no outdoor facilities are available. Customers who have no proof of vaccination or exemption can still enter briefly to use the restroom or pick up a takeout order, according to the ordinance.

Businesses that violate the rules can face escalating penalties under the ordinance, starting with a warning for a first violation, then a $1,000 fine for a second violation, eventually reaching a $5,000 penalty for a fourth or subsequent violation. The fines would begin to be enforced starting November 29, according to the ordinance.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Councilman Paul Koretz also asked for city analysts to report back on the possibility of requiring businesses that are warned or fined to post the notice prominently for customers to see.

"I know that I would personally take pause when walking into a restaurant that had been warned or cited for violations, so I think this would have an impact," Koretz said.

The rules will apply to patrons who are eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccination authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration, including through an emergency use authorization. That would mean that children who are currently too young to be eligible for the shots would not be subject to the requirements to enter businesses.

LA is also requiring proof of vaccination to enter indoor city facilities, although unvaccinated people will be provided "alternative arrangements for access to government services," which could include online or outdoor services or providing a negative test to enter an indoor facility.

Differences between city and county orders

Starting Thursday participants and workers at events hosted by Dodger Stadium must provide proof of full vaccination or show that they’ve recently tested negative for the coronavirus.
Starting Thursday participants and workers at events hosted by Dodger Stadium must provide proof of full vaccination or show that they’ve recently tested negative for the coronavirus.  © 123RF/kitleong

Ahead of the vote, business groups raised concerns about possible confusion because Los Angeles County is imposing its own set of vaccination rules for many local businesses and their customers. The county order already applies within LA city limits, but California cities can expand on county orders for vaccine requirements.

The county order requires patrons of indoor bars, wineries, nightclubs, and lounges to begin showing proof of at least one dose of vaccination starting Thursday, and show proof of full vaccination by November 4.

Additionally, starting Thursday, the county order says that participants and workers of outdoor events with 10,000 or more people – such as Dodger Stadium, SoFi Stadium, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Six Flags Magic Mountain – provide proof of full vaccination or show that they’ve recently tested negative for the coronavirus.

The city law will also have a stricter requirement for outdoor events than the county’s order. The city will require patrons of outdoor events with 5,000 or more people to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test.

Covid-19 cases have been waning in Los Angeles County, but the area is still averaging 14 deaths a day from the virus, according to the public health department. More than 61% of LA County residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data tracked by the Times.

Cover photo: 123RF/f11photo

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