Enforcement of Los Angeles’ new ordinance that requires most indoor businesses to only allow in people who have proof of full COVID-19 vaccination began on Monday, less than a month after the new law went into effect.
The mandate, officially known as SafePassLA, requires full proof of vaccination to enter most indoor places of business including restaurants, bars, movie theaters, arenas, convention centers, gyms, salons, barbershops, and other public areas. Proof of vaccination, most commonly through the form of a CDC vaccination card or a digital version, will often need a form of ID such as a driver’s license or state ID.
An exemption for medical or religious grounds is also accepted, but only with a valid negative COVID-19 test taken within the last 72 hours.
Accepted forms of proof of vaccination include an issued and vaccination noted CDC card, a photocopy of a vaccination card, a photo of a vaccination card on an electronic device like a smartphone, a personal digital COVID-19 vaccination record issued by a company or government entity, or documentation of a COVID-19 vaccination from a healthcare provider.
In addition to the indoor proof requirement, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test will be needed to attend outdoor events with 5,000 or more people.
The ordinance originally went even further, with shopping malls being among the indoor places covered by the ordinance and younger children requiring vaccination proof. Due to public and business outcry over the matters, such as how enforcement could possibly work in such a huge place like a mall with so many ways to get in or out, the LA City Council altered the ordinance earlier this month, removing malls and setting a hard age of 12 for asking vaccination proof.
Business owners remained mixed on Monday and Tuesday with citations and fines now active to enforce the ordinance. While first violations will only result in a warning, second violations carry a $1,000 fine, third violations come with a $2,000 fine, and all other violations have a $5,000 fine.
Loopholes, ways around ordinance are everywhere according to business owners, workers
“We’ve gotten notices about this, e-mails about the 29th being the enforcement date, what the rules are, and we even went through practice runs coming to this week,” LA restaurant owner Manny Suarez told the Globe on Tuesday. “During that time, more customers have been belligerent, some have not had proof and yelled for service, and it’s just been hard on the employees who are only following the law.”
“But this still has some of the biggest loopholes you’ve ever seen. The big one is religious exemptions. We’ve noticed a lot more people getting a quickie COVID test then walking in holding crosses or some other religious symbol around their neck saying a vaccination goes against their beliefs. One family last week even came in with tests done that morning and just saying ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ to them. That’s how loose all of this is right now.”
“Others come in with those CDC card photos on their phone and it’s really questionable if they’re photoshopped or not. Like, everything is filled out, but where their name is just looks a bit wrong, like if a just-off card color is there superimposing their name over the original. There’s guidance on what to do for real cards and those faking. What do you do about ones that may or may not be legitimate?”
A nearby store owner who wished to remain anonymous told the Globe just what she has been doing to stretch it out.
“There is a testing place only a block away. What I do is tell someone without proof who wants to go inside to get a quick test there, then come back here and say ‘religion’ and I’ll let them in. It’s that easy around it. I did this to a lot of people on black Friday. In this age of online orders, we need to treasure these people still willing to come in to shop, so we found a way within the letter of the law.”
“We even had a few people who were unvaccinated and didn’t want to be tested wait outside while one of the the employees here found the thing they wanted and did a transaction right then and there. They gave us their credit card, we went back in, rung them up, them came out with everything. One of my employees is originally from Russia, and they told me that’s how stores operate there, like the store gets the item way beforehand, holds it at checkout, then finally gives it to you once paid. It’s a bit archaic, but we’ve already nicknamed this the ‘Moscow’ method.”
Other store owners who talked with the Globe said that compliance was not a big issue for pretty much everyone, but some creative solutions were being implemented.
“With all the tables, we had a family come day after Thanksgiving with an Aunt being the only one to not vaccinate,” said Eduardo, a waiter in Los Angeles to the Globe on Tuesday. “So we sat the family next to the outside area, and on the sidewalk, right next to the table, we put out a chair for her so she could join them at the same time not being in the restaurant. It would seem like an inconvenience to most, but they were fine with that solution.”
“I don’t think the city knows just how many ways there are around this.”
The city ordinance, now under enforcement in the city of Los Angeles, joins a less restrictive County measure that requires places serving alcohol to ask for vaccination proof from patrons.