LOS ANGELES—The Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance Oct. 6 requiring people to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination before entering indoor restaurants, bars, gyms, shopping centers, entertainment venues, and personal care establishments.
The ordinance passed 11–2, with Councilmen Joe Buscaino and John Lee dissenting. Two members were absent from the vote. Because the ordinance didn’t receive 12 votes, the ordinance won’t go into effect until one month after its publication, or at least Nov. 6. The ordinance was originally expected to take effect on Nov. 4.
“We’ve spent too much time placing restrictions on people who did their part by getting vaccinated and wearing their masks. We need to both limit the transmission of the virus as well as make it inconvenient for those who are unvaccinated to access indoor venues and put lives at jeopardy. The stakes are too high,” Council President Nury Martinez said previously.
The ordinance applies to establishments that serve food or beverages, gyms and fitness venues, entertainment and recreation venues, including movie theaters, shopping centers, and personal care establishments.
People are exempt from the mandate if they have medical conditions that restrict their ability to get vaccinated or a sincerely held religious belief, which will be reviewed by the location the person is trying to enter.
People who are exempt will be able to use outdoor areas of the location, but if unavailable, they may be allowed to enter the indoor area by providing proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
Retail establishments such as grocery stores and pharmacies aren’t included in the ordinance.
The chief legislative analyst told council members on Sept. 29 that the city doesn’t yet have a department chosen to enforce the ordinance, but it has identified the Department of Building and Safety as the most relevant.
The department, however, doesn’t have the staffing to enforce the law. Actual enforcement is set to begin Nov. 29, and businesses that violate the ordinance would be issued a $1,000 fine for a second violation, a $2,000 fine for a third violation, and a $5,000 fine for a fourth violation.
City Councilman Joe Buscaino opposed the measure over the lack of enforcement while expressing concern that untrained employees in understaffed restaurants would be responsible for ensuring compliance.
Councilmen Bob Blumenfield, Mike Bonin, and Paul Krekorian expressed concern about details in the ordinance, including a lack of enforcement, but noted that it was imperative that the requirement go into effect quickly, and that the details could be fixed later.
“All those concerns being said, we can’t delay a day longer. We need to advance forward with an ordinance that is going to protect people from their fellow citizens who are making a choice not to be vaccinated,” Krekorian said last week.
The ordinance also requires people to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to attend outdoor events with 5,000 or more people, which would be stricter than the Los Angeles County requirement taking effect on Oct. 7, which applies to outdoor events with 10,000 or more people.
The ordinance is similar to policies in West Hollywood, New York, and San Francisco. West Hollywood’s policy to require adult patrons entering many indoor businesses to submit proof of at least partial vaccination goes into effect on Oct. 7, with full vaccination required beginning Nov. 4.
Los Angeles County’s vaccination requirement applies only to employees and patrons of indoor portions of bars, breweries, wineries, and distilleries. That rule also requires at least partial vaccination beginning Oct. 7, with full vaccination required by Nov. 4.
While Los Angeles County continues to see falling numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations and other metrics, the pace of residents being vaccinated has slowed dramatically, and Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer has warned that the pandemic will only end if that pace quickens.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fully vaccinated people can still contract COVID-19 and transmit it to others, although they are reportedly less likely to develop symptoms, require hospitalization, or die from the virus.
There is some evidence that fully vaccinated people will likely spread the more contagious Delta variant of the virus for less time than unvaccinated people, the CDC says.