A new COVID-19 proof-of-vaccination law in Los Angeles that requires those ages 12 and up to be fully vaccinated or have a recent negative COVID-19 test to enter most indoor businesses and public areas went into effect on Monday.
The new ordinance had a remarkably quick turnaround time from draft to law. Originally proposed in late September, a final vote on the ordinance came only weeks later, with the Los Angeles City Council voting 11-2 to put the new ordinance into effect. According to the ordinance, full proof of vaccination is now needed to enter most indoor places of business including restaurants, bars, movie theaters, arenas, convention centers, gyms, salons, and other public areas.
An exemption for medical or religious grounds will be accepted, but only with a valid negative COVID-19 test taken within the last 72 hours. The non-vaccinated will also be allowed to briefly enter to use the restroom or pick up orders inside while at the establishment, but can only do so while masked. The new mandate also affects outdoor events with those larger than 5,000 people requiring either proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test, making it more restrictive than all other city, county, and state vaccination laws currently in effect.
However, Los Angeles city officials have said that enforcement of the law will not be coming until later this month on the 29th to allow businesses time to get used to checking for proof and give employees ample time on working out systems of checking and verification. After the 29th, the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety will issue fines and punishments to those in violation. While the 1st infraction will only warrant a warning, the 2nd infraction will bring a fine of $1,000, with a 3rd infraction costing $2,000. All others afterwards will amount to $5,000 each time. All fines and warnings will be given to the establishment, not the individual for breaking the mandate.
City officials said that the new mandate will encourage more residents to get vaccinated, to help make businesses safer, and to protect those that cannot get the vaccine, such as younger children and those with autoimmune conditions.
“Vaccinating more Angelenos is our only way out of this pandemic, and we must do everything in our power to keep pushing those numbers up,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti last week while in Scotland for the United Nations climate change conference.
City Council President Nury Martinez also laid out the reasoning behind the ordinance on Monday, noting that “The intention of this isn’t to penalize businesses. Our businesses can’t afford another shutdown. It’s to limit the transmission of the virus and save lives.”
However, local business groups and others have said that the ordinance will only prove to be confusing to many and that requiring a vaccination proof check will only add to the additional burdens of staff members, who may now also may face increased harassment by customers over it.
“There’s a tremendous lack of clarity,” said Los Angeles County Business Federation policy manager Sarah Wiltfong, in a statement on Monday. “Most retail shops are exempt, but shopping malls and shopping centers are included, which of course includes retail shops. This puts employees in a potential position of conflict, when they’re not necessarily trained to handle situations like that.”
Many now under the new ordinance are especially worried about the increased harassment.
“We’ve had arguments, fights, yelling, you name it over masks alone,” explained Los Angeles waiter Josh Doerr, who has been part of a social media campaign to alert the public about some customers’ negative reaction to the masking laws. “And with masks, you don’t know who has been vaccinated or not. Vaccination proof is much more personal, and we’ve seen a lot more harassment come from it in places like San Francisco which already have some of these types of laws around. And right now businesses are desperate for employees.”
“With masks, a lot of us have either left mid-shift because of a belligerent customer or know those who have in the last several months since the reopenings began in earnest. Turnover is now only going to be worse. You’d wish that people either go or don’t, but a lot of people either don’t know or hope to be made an exception or are doing it just to challenge the system. And guess who gets the bunt of it? Us.”
“The actors and stand up comics and writers among us have developed a thick skin already, but even we have our limits. We’re going to see an even worse employee shortage in the restaurant industry this month because of this ordinance. It will not be great to say the least.”
Enforcement of the new ordinance is expected to begin at the end of November.
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