Los Angeles approves a strict Covid vaccination mandate


Los Angeles leaders on Wednesday approved one of the nation’s most stringent vaccine mandates – a sweeping measure that would require shots at anyone who entered bars, restaurants, nail salons, gyms or even a Lakers game.

The city council voted 11-2 for the ordinance, which will require proof of full vaccination by November 4th.

This move came after the council last week postponed a vote to address concerns ranging from who could be fined for violations to whether employees could end up in fists when they had to serve as vaccine door monitors.

Some critics argue that a mandate would be tantamount to separating those who cannot or refuse to be vaccinated. Others call it impractical.

Business trade groups have said the city mandate will create confusion because Los Angeles County’s own vaccine rules – which apply both in Los Angeles and in the surrounding communities – are less sweeping.

However, councilors generally support the regulation, which aims to reduce the risk of new COVID-19 surges. The country’s second largest city faced a huge increase in infections and hospitalizations last winter and a small increase this summer associated with the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.

Mayor Eric Garcetti expressed his support for a vaccination measure last week, saying, “I do not want to bury another city employee, police officer, firefighter.”

The regulation would require people to be fully vaccinated to enter public spaces indoors, including shopping malls, restaurants, bars, gyms, sports arenas, museums, spas, nail salons, indoor urban facilities and elsewhere. The current eligibility includes persons aged 12 and over.

Negative coronavirus tests within 72 hours of entry to these sites would be required for people with religious or medical exemptions for vaccinations.

Council President Nury Martinez has said it is clear the vaccines work, but too many people remain unvaccinated despite widespread availability and door-to-door campaigns to vaccinate more people.

The ordinance comes at a time when COVID-19 cases are crashing while political ambitions are rising — two council members are running for mayor, as is the city attorney who wrote the proposal.

During a recent City Hall meeting, Councilman and mayoral candidate Joe Buscaino challenged the measure as “ready as mud” in terms of enforcement.

“Getting a teenager … to act as a bouncer to keep people inside or outside a restaurant and then fine the company for their failure is not the way forward,” he said.

Buscaino also noted the conflict between the city’s measure and the county’s vaccination mandate, which only covers patrons and workers at indoor bars, wineries, breweries, lounges and nightclubs. The county will require proof of a dose from Thursday, while proof of full vaccination will be required by November 4th.

Of the county’s approximately 10 million residents, 78% have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, and 69% are fully vaccinated, according to public health officials.

The county reported 35 new deaths and 964 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. Health officials said the county has reported an average of 14 deaths a day, though deaths and hospitalizations have fallen by about 50% since late August.

An increasing number of places in the United States, including San Francisco and New York City, require people to show proof of vaccination to enter various types of businesses and venues.

New York City began this summer requiring proof of vaccination to eat inside restaurants and bars or to enter certain types of public places, including museums, theaters, gyms, indoor sports venues and concert halls.

Compliance has been mixed and enforcement targeted is easy, with the city favoring initial warnings for offenders and fines for repeat offenders.

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