On Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council passed a sweeping proof of COVID-19 vaccination law that requires full proof of vaccination to enter most indoor places of business including restaurants, bars, movie theaters, arenas, convention centers, gyms, salons, and other public areas.
Passed in an 11-2 vote, the new mandate will require vaccination proof to enter those areas for those ages 12 and up. 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 outdoor part of 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 the 10,000 attendance requirement of Los Angeles County.
Overseeing the mandate will be the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, who will give 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. A 3rd infraction will cost $2,000 while all subsequent infractions will be $5,000. All fines and warnings will be given to the establishment, not the individual for breaking the mandate.
The ordinance had been due for a vote last week, but was delayed due to Councilman Joe Buscaino invoking the Council’s Rule 39 to withhold unanimous consent required to pass the mandate, resulting in a voting change to Wednesday.
The 11 Council members in favor of the ordinance noted that they supported it because of the numerous health risks still associated with the COVID-19 virus and its variants, including the greater danger poised to children. Council members also noted other large cities such as New York and San Francisco passing similar laws in the last few months to combat increasing case rates and how Los Angeles should join them due to the continued health risks.
“No one is forcing anyone to get vaccinated,” said City Council President Nury Martinez. “But if you don’t, there are certain things you will not be able to do without showing proof of vaccination. There are still too many unvaccinated residents and that those who have been vaccinated deserve to go back to normal. We’re getting tired of protecting people who do not want to protect themselves and get vaccinated. This is no longer negotiable. The stakes are too high.”
Last month, Councilman Mitch O’Farrell also noted that “COVID-19 could be eradicated if we had mass vaccinations across the country and across the world. Why on Earth is it OK in 2021 to have 30-plus people die in the county of Los Angeles from COVID over a three-day period, including an 11-year-old girl, when we have a vaccine that could have prevented all of that, accessible to everyone. This is not a vaccine mandate. We’re not going to deny anyone the ability to access essentials, food, medicine, etc., regardless of vaccination. But what is immoral is choosing not to get vaccinated, choosing to listen to some delusional rant on Twitter.”
Concern among business owners that mandate may lead to major loss of revenue
Voting no on the mandate were Councilmen Joe Buscaino and John Lee over concerns of the mandate having no enforcement measure in place and unusual differences between county and city measures.
“Making a teenager serve as a bouncer to keep people in or out of a restaurant, and then fining the business for their failure is not the way to go about it,” said Buscaino after the vote on Wednesday.
Business owners have also noted that the new mandate will likely result in a drop of business, such as businesses in San Francisco and New York City seeing large drop offs after they passed their respective mandates in the last few months. A currently 69% vaccinated population in Los Angeles, as well as a lower vaccinated tourist population, has already indicated a noticeable drop off when the mandate comes into effect next month.
“This is terrifying,” explained Hollywood restaurant owner Sid Stevens to the Globe on Wednesday. “They want to get rid of COVID, but that means bringing us down economically down to pandemic levels economically to do it. A lot of restaurants barely survived COVID. Now the city is lining us all up on the firing squad again and seeing who gets out this time.”
Following Mayor Eric Garcetti’s signing of the ordinance on Wednesday, the mandate is due to come into effect on November 4th, giving Los Angeles citizens less than a month to get fully vaccinated if they want to use most indoor businesses. The new requirement is to stay in effect until the end of the city’s Emergency Declaration for COVID-19.
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