“No one will force you to get a vaccine, but if you decide not to get one, there are certain things you will not be able to do,” said Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez about a vote taken today that will require people to show proof of full Covid-19 vaccination before entering indoor entertainment venues.
The amendment to the city ordinance passed today with 11 “ayes” and two “nays.” Councilmen Joe Buscaino and John Lee were the dissenters. Two other members were absent for the vote.
Ordinances need unanimous approval upon their first reading. Supervisor Buscaino invoked the council’s Rule 39 on the first reading last week, which allowed him to withhold the unanimous consent required to pass the ordinance. That meant potential approval would be delayed to this week.
Due to the ordinance’s “urgency clause,” the ordinance needed 12 yes votes upon its second consideration to pass with urgency today, not the normal eight votes. Since only the eight vote threshold was achieved the measure, which was to apply November 4, takes effect in the normal time frame, which is one month from publication, or November 6.
Thus, people in L.A. will need to show proof of full Covid-19 vaccination before entering indoor movie theaters, concert & sports event venues, restaurants, bars, gyms, shopping centers and personal care establishments.
“This is no longer negotiable,” said Martinez, “the stakes are too high.”
Those with medical or religious exemptions will need to provide a recent negative Covid test.
Indoor public spaces that fall under the ordinance would be required to display advisory notices of the vaccination requirement.
The ordinance applies to:
-Entertainment and recreation venues including movie theaters, shopping centers, concert venues, performance venues, adult entertainment venues, commercial event and party venues, sports arenas, convention centers, exhibition halls, museums, malls, performing arts theaters, bowling alleys, arcades, card rooms, family entertainment centers, pool and billiard halls, play areas and game centers
-Establishments that serve food or beverages, including restaurants, bars, fast food establishments, coffee shops, tasting rooms, cafeterias, food courts, breweries, wineries, distilleries banquet halls and hotel ballrooms
-Gyms and fitness venues, including recreation facilities, fitness studios (including for yoga, pilates, dance, and barre), boxing gyms, fitness boot camps and facilities that hold indoor group fitness classes
-Personal care establishments, including spas, nail salons, hair salons, barbershops, tanning salons, estheticians, skin care, tattoo shops, piercing shops and massage therapy locations, unless medically required
Police stations would apparently also be included in the ordinance, according to testimony last week. It would also likely impact the availability of NBA, NFL and other professional sports stars who refuse vaccination.
It is unclear where theme parks fall in regard to the city ordinance, but last Tuesday L.A. County announced that Covid vaccination/testing requirement for visitors to large venues such as Six Flags Magic Mountain and Universal Studios Hollywood will take effect tomorrow, but the county will no longer require proof of a negative Covid test for patrons ages 11 and younger — an age group that remains ineligible for vaccinations. Those parks indicated today that they are ready to comply.
The county also removed the requirement that patrons ages 17 and younger provide a photo ID along with their vaccination/testing verification. The county also agreed to delay the photo ID requirement for people ages 18 and over until Nov. 1, which aligns with the city’s date. People still will have to provide the vaccination/testing verification beginning Oct. 7.
Theme parks in the county had expressed concerns about the requirement, contending they had limited staffing to check the required documentation — both a vaccine/testing verification and a photo ID — potentially leading to long lines for admission to the parks. They also argued that patrons who purchased tickets in advance before the requirements were announced should be given a grace period. The same is certainly true of movie theaters, concert venues and sporting events.
Jurisdictions within the county may pass and promulgate stricter guidelines, but it remains to be seen if the city will conform to the county’s recent amendments on theme parks, or be more stringent.
The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety will likely be responsible for enforcing the mandate. An official from that department told council members last week that Building and Safety does not have the staff to execute such enforcement. He said employees would have to shift from normal enforcement duties or, potentially, County Health Department inspectors could report infractions.
Any citations would be given to the establishment. Enforcement would be the duty of the manager or employee.
Coucilmember Mike Bonin had expressed concerns about “selective enforcement” of the mandate, but indicated it would not hold up his “Yes” vote.
The Building and Safety official said fines will break down as follows:
1st Infraction: A notice to correct
2nd Infraction: $1000
3rd Infraction: $2000
Subsequent Infractions: $5000
Those presenting fake vaccination cards, according to officials, would be subject to strict federal laws regulating the falsification of identification. The business owner would not be fined, specifically, for failing to correctly screen out fake cards.
Those who do not have an exemption or vaccination may be allowed to use outdoor areas of the location and the indoor portion “for brief and limited periods of time to use the restroom, order, pick-up or pay for food or drink to go.”
The ordinance would also require people to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test to attend outdoor events with 5,000 or more people, which would be stricter than the L.A. County requirement. That ordinance applies only to outdoor events with 10,000 or more people.
“Covid-19 could be eradicated if we had mass vaccinations across the country and across the world,” O’Farrell said before noting the United States’ history eradicating smallpox and mostly eradicating polio through vaccinations.
“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,” O’Farrell said before the vote on Aug. 11.
“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,” he added.
The ordinance would be 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 Oct. 7, with full vaccination required beginning Nov. 4.
Several people called into the Los Angeles City Council meeting on Aug. 11 to oppose the potential ordinance, some claiming that the vaccines are dangerous themselves, and others saying it was a form of “segregation” and comparing it to tactics used by Nazis during the 1930s and ’40s.
Councilman Bob Blumenfield, who said he was offended by the latter comparison, responded, “When you ask someone for their papers for the purpose of sending them to a death camp, that is the exact opposite of asking for proof of vaccination so we can save lives, it is the opposite.”
One caller today called the ordinance “disgusting” and “a declaration of war against the people and business.”
The chairman of the Los Angeles chapter of the Libertarian Party called in to urge “mass non-compliance” saying, “We can overwhelm the city quickly.”
Martinez said before the Aug. 11 vote, “I want to be very clear about something, and I’ve heard this on social media and people who call in that they have a right to not access the vaccine or not get vaccinated. Unfortunately, that argument just doesn’t work for me. You not being vaccinated actually impacts the health of everyone else. So that argument that you have the right to not access the vaccine or get vaccinated just doesn’t work anymore.”
While Los Angeles County continues to see falling numbers of Covid-related hospitalizations and other metrics, the pace of residents being vaccinated remains relatively stagnant, and the county’s public health director last Tuesday warned that the pandemic will only end if that pace quickens.
“Time is no longer on our side,” Barbara Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors. “We’ve been here before. During early fall 2020, community transmission was low, until then it wasn’t. Last winter was brutal. And given the unpredictability of the virus and its variants, we need to accelerate the pace of vaccinations, since this is the most effective tool we have to prevent another deadly surge.”
As of Sept. 23, 77% of eligible county residents aged 12 and over had received at least one dose of vaccine, and 69% are fully vaccinated. In L.A. County, however, roughly 15% of residents are under the age of 12, so when those Angelenos are included, the percentages of those partially or fully vaccinated dip even lower.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fully vaccinated people can still contract Covid and transmit it to others, although they are far 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, per the CDC.
City News Service contributed to this report.