Los Angeles approves strictest US vaccination requirements

Los Angeles leaders approved Wednesday one of the strictest vaccination mandates in the country. This broad measure requires everyone to get shots before they enter bars, restaurants and nail salons as well as gyms and Lakers games.

Los Angeles approves strictest US vaccination requirements

The City Council voted 11-2 for the ordinance, which will require proof that patrons and workers have been fully vaccinated starting Nov. 4.

It was signed Wednesday afternoon by Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Garcetti stated in a statement that "vaccinating more Angelenos is the only way out from this pandemic." These new rules will encourage more people get the shot and make it safer for customers and workers -- so we can save more lives.

After the City Council delayed a vote last Wednesday to address concerns about who could be fined and whether employees could get into fistfights if they are required to monitor vaccine doors, the City Council decided to move forward with the decision.

Critics claim that mandating vaccination would lead to segregation for those who are unable or unwilling to be vaccinated. Some call it impossible to enforce.

According to business trade groups, the city mandate will cause confusion as Los Angeles County's vaccine rules, which are applicable in Los Angeles County and in dozens more surrounding communities, are less expansive.

However, cities can adopt rules that are more stringent than those of the county.

City Council members supporting the ordinance stated that it was designed to reduce the risk of new COVID-19 spikes. The nation's second largest city saw an increase in infections and hospitalizations last year, and a smaller spike this summer due to the spread of highly contagious delta variant.

To be able to enter indoor public areas such as shopping malls and bars, restaurants, bars or gyms, sports arenas or museums, spas, nail salons, indoor cities facilities, etc., the ordinance will require that everyone is fully vaccinated. The current vaccine eligibility is for people aged 12 and over. Children below this age are not eligible for the vaccine.

People with medical or religious exemptions from vaccinations will need to submit to negative coronavirus testing within 72 hours after entry.

Customers without proof of identity can still use outdoor facilities. They can also briefly enter businesses to use the restrooms or order food.

Nury Martinez, Council President, stated that it was clear that vaccines work. However, too many people are still not vaccinated despite the availability of vaccines and door-to–door campaigns to get more people vaccinated. The mandate was deemed "a necessary step towards normalcy" and lifting restrictions on masks.

The ordinance was adopted at a time COVID-19 cases were dropping and political ambitions in Los Angeles rising. Two council members are running for mayor as well as the city attorney who drafted the proposal.

Joe Buscaino, a councilman and mayoral candidate, voted against this mandate. He challenged the measure regarding enforcement at a council meeting last week.

Buscaino had also noted the conflict between the measure of the city and the county's vaccination mandate. This mandate only covers patrons or workers at indoor bars and wineries, breweries and lounges, as well as nightclub patrons.

He was unable to get several amendments to this measure, including one that would have made it a crime for employees to harass those who attempt to enforce it.

John Lee, a Councilman, also opposed the measure. He called it "punitive towards businesses" and required that customers provide proof of vaccination. For a first offense, businesses can receive a warning but could be fined up to $5,000 if repeated violations occur. The rules were in effect since Nov. 29.

According to public health officials, 78% of the approximately 10 million county residents have had at least one COVID-19 vaccination and 69% have been fully vaccinated.

On Wednesday, the county reported 31 new COVID-19 cases and almost 1,500 additional deaths. Officials from the county's health department said that 14 deaths per day are reported, even though hospitalizations and deaths have fallen by 50% since August.

California health officials have reported over 5,000 new cases across the state, mainly among the unvaccinated. Nearly 85% have had at least one dose of vaccines.

Many places in the U.S., including San Francisco, require proof of vaccinations to be allowed to enter certain types of businesses and venues.

Since Aug. 20, San Francisco has required proof of vaccinations for patrons and staff in indoor areas where food or drinks are consumed, aerobic exercise takes place such as gyms, or where large groups gather, such as entertainment venues.

According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health, businesses have followed the order. Officials have not issued any notices of violations or levied any penalties.

San Francisco has also mandated indoor mask use. However, public health officials in San Francisco and the surrounding San Francisco Bay Area communities will soon announce criteria that would allow them to remove indoor mask mandates.

New York City began this summer requiring proof that you have been immunized to be allowed to eat in restaurants and bars.

The city prefers initial warnings to violators, and then fines for repeat offenders.

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