L.A. moves toward requiring proof of COVID vaccine indoors at restaurants, bars, gyms, stores

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Amid a new surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, Los Angeles on Wednesday moved toward requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccinations indoors at restaurants, gyms, stores and other spaces.

The Los Angeles City Council voted to direct the city attorney to draft an ordinance requiring patrons to have at least one dose of the vaccine to be able to enter the indoor public spaces.

The motion, which was introduced by Council President Nury Martinez and Councilman Mitch O’Farrell last week, applies to restaurants, bars, retail establishments, fitness centers, spas, and entertainment centers like stadiums, concert venues and movie theaters.

It’s still unclear what the law will look like, and how it will be enforced.

The L.A. City Attorney now has to prepare and present a draft ordinance, which will then go back to the city council for approval.

“It’s our responsibility to protect the public, that includes protecting them from the unvaccinated,” Martinez said. “The decision to not get vaccinated doesn’t just affect you. We have kids under the age of 12 who are not eligible for the vaccine yet, and someone’s decision to not get vaccinated affects them as well.”

The city council meeting featured calls from several members of the public who expressed opposition to the motion.

L.A. City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell explained that the motion is “not a vaccine mandate.”

“We’re not going to tell someone, anyone that they have to get vaccinated. We’re also not going to deny anyone the ability to access essential food, medicine… regardless of vaccination. That wouldn’t be legal, that wouldn’t be moral,” O’Farrell said. “But what is immoral is choosing not to get vaccinated.”

“We need to stop fighting the science and start fighting the virus,” the councilman said.

Councilman Bob Blumenfield noted that the city needs to be careful about which locations the new requirement would apply to so that people are not being denied entry into into essential businesses.

In drafting the ordinance, city officials will have to solicit input from businesses on the types of public spaces that should be included under the requirement, as well as input from parent groups, teachers, pediatricians and others on how to protect children under 12 year old, who still can’t get vaccinated.

It’s not just the city looking to step up restrictions in the wake of the new surge and concerns over the highly contagious delta variant.

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors also voted Tuesday to look into options for requiring residents to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter certain indoor spaces in unincorporated county areas.

Some restaurants and bars throughout L.A. County have already started requiring customers to show proof that they are vaccinated against COVID-19, or present a negative coronavirus test if they’re unvaccinated.

But the added safeguards have been coming from restaurant and bar owners who were only just starting to see business pick up after having to deal with the ever-changing restrictions of 2020 — not from health officials.

“We can’t afford another shutdown of this economy because a handful of individuals refuse to get vaccinated because of their civil liberties,” Kevin de León said.

So far, faced with another coronavirus spike after months of improvement, the L.A. County Department of Public Health has responded by reimplementing a mask mandate in indoor settings.

“Mask mandates by themselves aren’t going to get us out of this pandemic, becoming fully vaccinated against COVID-19 remains the other key action that people can take to protect themselves, their friends and their family,” Councilman Paul Koretz said.

So far, 62% of L.A. County’s eligible population is fully vaccinated, according to health department data.

COVID-19 hospitalization numbers throughout L.A. County continue to climb, and health officials say it’s mostly unvaccinated people who are ending up seriously ill.

Only about 0.009% of all fully vaccinated people in L.A. County ended up hospitalized for COVID-19, according to the L.A. County department of Public Health.

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