The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to end the COVID-19 vaccine verification requirement at many of the city’s indoor businesses.
The measure would go into effect when signed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, allowing the city to stop requiring people to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination to enter restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters, concert venues, convention centers, card rooms, play areas, museums, spas, salons and indoor city facilities.
While L.A. County has already dropped the vaccine proof requirement, the city had been requiring those businesses to verify people’s vaccine status.
Residents will also stop having to show proof of vaccination or recent negative test results at outdoor events with 5,000 or more attendees within the city.
The city’s sweeping mandate, dubbed SafePassLA, was one of the nation’s strictest vaccine mandates when it went into effect in November and meant that L.A. businesses had to enforce stricter rules than those in surrounding county areas.
With case numbers declining in recent weeks following the record-breaking winter surge, City Council President Nury Martinez earlier this month introduced a motion to make vaccine verification voluntary and no longer require proof of vaccination at large outdoor events.
The City Council held a vote on the measure last week. It needed a unanimous vote to pass but only got a 13-1 vote. Councilman Mike Bonin was the only one who voted against the measure, saying he was worried about lifting the requirements.
Since the measure didn’t get enough votes last week, it went to a second procedural vote Wednesday. This time, it only needed 12 votes to pass with an urgency clause.
But even as the city lifts the requirement, individual businesses can choose to still ask patrons for their vaccine cards.
The vote on vaccine proof verification comes amid concerns over BA.2, a “stealth” omicron subvariant that health authorities worry may again bring up infection numbers.
The ratio of samples turning out to be the BA.2 subvariant has been increasing in L.A. County, just like the rest of the country.
Between February 27 and March 5, 14.7% of sequenced cases in L.A. County were found to be BA.2, the L.A. County Department of Public Health reported last week.
That is more than double what it was the week before, when BA.2 accounted for 6.4% of sequenced cases in the county.
Concerns over the new subvariant are emerging as California and L.A. County relax COVID-19 restrictions, most notably easing up on masking requirements.
It’s not yet clear whether BA.2 will fuel another major surge in the U.S.
The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has said that he wouldn’t be surprised if case numbers begin to climb in the U.S. in the next few weeks, but doesn’t expect another major surge.