Los Angeles City Council members introduced a measure on Aug. 4 that seeks to require people to show proof that they’ve had a COVID-19 vaccine to enter some indoor public spaces, including theaters and restaurants, following a similar mandate announced by New York City earlier this week.
In an announcement on Twitter, City Council President Nury Martinez wrote that “many Angelenos stepped up and did their part,” and “they shouldn’t be penalized with closures by those unwilling to do theirs.”
The legislation would direct the city attorney to draft an ordinance requiring people aged 16 and older to have received at least one vaccine dose to gain access to indoor public spaces.
The indoor spaces include but are “not limited to restaurants, bars, retail establishments, fitness centers, spas, and entertainment centers, such as stadiums, concert venues, and movie theaters,” the text of the measure said.
Martinez, a Democrat, issued a statement alongside the proposal and effectively blamed people who aren’t vaccinated for exacerbating the COVID-19 pandemic. He, along with most other officials, made no mention of “natural immunity” among people who contracted and survived COVID-19.
“We have three vaccines that work and are readily available, so what’s it going to take? Our kids are about to return to school, and the unvaccinated are putting their lives at risk every day. Ask your questions, talk to your doctor and get the vaccine. Let’s put this behind us,” he said.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced earlier this week that the city would roll out vaccine mandates for gyms, restaurants, theaters, and other venues starting in mid-September. It isn’t clear yet how that will be enforced in the thousands and thousands of restaurants and cafes around New York City.
Some restaurant owners in New York City told local media that for them, it would be virtually impossible to enforce such a mandate.
Seongmin Jun, the manager of Dear Han Cafe in Queens, asked: “Will customers get offended for checking if they got COVID vaccinations? I mean I don’t know how to do that, or even if I will have time to do that.”
And such a system and other vaccine passport-type systems have been flagged by civil liberties groups as being authoritarian and would create a segregated society. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) earlier this year wrote there “is a lot that can go wrong” with vaccine passport systems.
“We don’t oppose in principle the idea of requiring proof of vaccination in certain contexts. But given the enormous difficulty of creating a digital passport system, and the compromises and failures that are likely to happen along the way, we are wary about the side effects and long-term consequences it could have. We will be closely watching developments in this area,” the ACLU said.
Even some Democrat officials have rebuffed calls for vaccine passport mandates, including Boston Acting Mayor Kim Janey, who this week compared vaccine passports in New York City to slavery-era freedom papers and Jim Crow laws.
“There’s a long history in this country of people needing to show their papers,” Janey told local media. The mayor then listed examples “during slavery, post-slavery, as recent as … what [the] immigrant population has to go through here.”
“Here, we want to make sure that we are not doing anything that would further create a barrier for residents of Boston or disproportionally impact” minority groups, she added.