Less than a week after the mandatory COVID-19 proof of vaccination requirement to enter most indoor public areas came into effect, the Los Angeles City Council made major changes to the order on Friday due to a large number of enforcement issues.
The mandate, which is officially known as SafePassLA, and approved last month, requires full proof of vaccination to enter most indoor places of business including restaurants, bars, movie theaters, malls, 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.
However, after SafePassLA came into effect on Monday, businesses across the city began reporting on multiple failures of the vaccine proof requirement. Buildings with multiple entrances, malls in particular, reported that many people could simply go to entrances with no one assigned to check at the door, such as typically non-public entrances. Other loopholes, such as switching from outdoor portions of the business to indoor ones once settled in also occurred regularly.
Larger groups of people also proved a challenge, with multiple LA business owners telling the Globe that checking for proof in large parties could prove impossible if people kept moving around. Children in particular proved the most difficult to check due to confusion over their status and many parents unaware if proof for those under 12 was even needed.
“This past week was awful,” said restaurant owner Manny Suarez to the Globe on Friday. “People snuck in, got around waitresses, yelled at us for demanding proof when they didn’t have any, and really tried to make our lives worse in the process. This mandate is not working the way it is. Businesses need protections from people who don’t give proof. They take it out on us when all we’re doing is complying with a law so we don’t get into trouble. If we follow, customers get angry and we lose some business. If we don’t, we’ll start to get fined in a few weeks. We can’t win.”
Major changes to proof mandate
With so many complaints coming in, the City Council took the most egregious issues and made major alterations on Friday. As of Friday, malls and shopping centers will no longer be covered by the proof of vaccine mandate, largely due to the logistical challenges in enforcement. Proof age will also be set at 12 years old, with those 11 and younger not being required to show proof despite vaccines now being open to those between 11 and 5 years old.
Despite the changes on Friday, business owners say more are needed due to the issues they saw come up this week.
“We need better indoor and outdoor rules, and most critically, we need more protections,” added Lydia Oscar, a salon owner, to the Globe. “Most of us would rather not have this proof mandate at all because it clearly isn’t working, but since we do have it, LA needs to make sure that businesses aren’t being negatively affected by it, and we most certainly have been. It’s hard to comply if they come in waving a piece of paper with a church letterhead saying they don’t have to be vaccinated. You want to keep customers, but for your sake, you also want to make sure it’s legit and not want to be fined because of it. Remember, those fines are on us, and after a few times breaking them, it can hit $5,000.”
“This all probably seems easy to do if you don’t have a business to run, but enforcing this is really not that simple. And the City Council is barely giving us any slack.”
City enforcement of the mandate begins November 29th. Other alterations to the mandate are likely in the coming weeks as more problems continue to be discovered.
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