Los Angeles, CA

Should vaccine mandates be suspended in Los Angeles? Many Angelenos say no.

Jano le Roux

"The Los Angeles city council just has the best interest of Angelenos at heart with their mandates," is one side of the message making the rounds on social media. As the fight to keep mandates in place continues, the other side looks a little more like this: "We don't need the government to decide. Let the people decide."

Many members of the Los Angeles City Council expressed support for broad new legislation that would require individuals to produce evidence of COVID-19 immunization before entering restaurants, shopping malls, movie theaters, hair and nail salons, and a variety of other indoor facilities in the city.

The council did not vote on the motion when Councilman Joe Buscaino, a mayoral contender, expressed reservations about the plan and said he would “withhold” his vote after more than an hour of debate.

According to municipal authorities, the proposal will be voted on next week. With a majority vote, the proposed legislation may be approved that day. Members of the council had anticipated the final decision to come next week anyway: if the council had voted on the ordinance on Wednesday and the result had not been unanimous, the legislation would have needed a second vote next week.

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Michael Trujillo, a Buscaino campaign adviser, said the move doesn’t alter the timetable for when the regulations would take effect, but it “gives council members a chance to get more educated on it” and receive more answers to their concerns.

Beginning November 4, clients visiting some indoor establishments in L.A. will be required to show evidence of vaccination under the proposed law. The rules, according to Council President Nury Martinez, are necessary to protect children who are too young to receive the shots, as well as people who have “given up too much” in lost schooling and socialization over the past year and a half, as well as people who are vulnerable due to other medical conditions.

“It is unjust to continue to put everyone else’s lives on hold because some people refuse to listen to science, data, and facts,” Martinez said during a news briefing before the meeting.

The city council president claimed that the city needs to crack down on virus transmission and make it “inconvenient” for unvaccinated individuals to attend indoor events, arguing that doing so would “put lives in jeopardy.”

“This is no longer a negotiating point. Martinez said, “The stakes are far too high.”

The new legislation would apply to a variety of indoor enterprises, such as coffee shops, gyms, museums, bowling alleys, and spas. Customers may request written exemptions to the restrictions for specified religious or medical reasons, but companies must compel them to utilize outside facilities if they are available, according to the proposed guidelines.

If the venue does not offer an outside alternative, exempt clients must provide evidence that they have recently tested negative for COVID-19 to be allowed inside. Customers who do not have evidence of vaccination or exemption would be allowed to enter a business for a short visit to the bathroom or to pick up a takeout order.

As of November 4, L.A. will need vaccination evidence for entry into indoor municipal facilities, but unvaccinated individuals will be given “alternative arrangements for access to government services,” which will be decided on a case-by-case basis, according to the law. This may involve offering online or outdoor services, as well as administering a negative test to get access to an indoor facility.

Some others called in to voice their opposition to the ordinance. Business groups such as the Los Angeles County Business Federation and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce expressed concern that the city rules would cause confusion and challenges for businesses, especially since L.A. County had issued its own, more limited order, which is set to take effect early next month.

When the city’s emergency declaration for the COVID-19 epidemic is lifted, the L.A. ordinance will expire.

After Los Angeles County issued a health order requiring customers and employees at indoor bars, wineries, breweries, nightclubs, and lounges to be at least partly vaccinated by October 7 and completely vaccinated by Nov. 4, the city is pursuing its own standards. Vaccine proofing inside eateries is recommended but not required by the county decree.

In addition, evidence of vaccination or a negative COVID test would be required to access outdoor events with 5,000 or more attendees under the local L.A. city legislation; beginning October 7, L.A. County would need such proof for outdoor events with 10,000 or more attendees.

Although the county order for vaccination mandates already applies inside the city boundaries of Los Angeles, California cities may expand on it. West Hollywood has also enacted its own set of regulations that go beyond the county.

Other California communities, outside of the local Los Angeles County, have enacted their own vaccine mandates. The Los Angeles regulation would apply to more companies than the directives in San Francisco and Berkeley, which don’t extend to malls, salons, or museums, but is more liberal in permitting individuals to provide a negative test as a replacement for vaccination. In addition to California, New York City requires evidence of immunization in restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and other indoor locations.

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