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Los Angeles to require proof of COVID vaccination to enter businesses

Residents and visitors to the nation's second largest city will soon need to show proof of vaccination to enter many indoor settings.

Los Angeles became the largest city in the nation to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter certain indoor businesses, large events and city buildings.

The Los Angeles City Council voted 11-2 Wednesday in favor of adding the rule to its Municipal Code after postponing the vote last week due to questions about enforcement, fines and the possibility of confusion.

An emergency clause that would have allowed the ordinance to go into effect immediately failed to get the 12 votes needed to pass.

The ordinance — which goes into effect Nov. 6 with enforcement expected to begin Nov. 29 — requires patrons entering restaurants and bars, gyms, movie theaters, nail salons and other businesses show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test conducted within 72 hours of entering the facility.

Operators of large outdoor events will also be required to cross-check proof of vaccination against an individual’s ID card before allowing them to enter the event.

The ordinance is expected to be signed into law by Mayor Eric Garcetti. It comes at a time when transmission of COVID-19 in Los Angeles remains high and public health experts had warned absent a COVID-19 vaccination mandate, a winter surge in cases would be imminent.

Garcetti said in a statement to Courthouse News "vaccinating more Angelenos is our only way out of this pandemic."

He added: "These new rules will encourage more people to get the shot, and make businesses safer for workers and customers - so that we can save more lives, better protect the vulnerable and make our communities even safer as we fight this pandemic."

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But the mandate marks a fork in the road both the county and city of Los Angeles had traveled together in lockstep when it came to implementing COVID-19 safety rules and regulations: the city’s vaccine requirement is stricter than that recently adopted by the county.

Last week, Los Angeles County issued updated guidelines requiring the operators of large “mega” events cross-check proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test against photo IDs of patrons 18 and older.

Bars, breweries, wineries distilleries, nightclubs and lounges in Los Angeles County with indoor service must also verify proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Those who don’t provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination can be served outdoors, however.

LA County Public Health officials also recommended restaurants reserve indoor service and seating for those patrons who have been vaccinated and serve those who could not prove they have been vaccinated outdoors.

Business groups, including the LA Chamber of Commerce cautioned inconsistent COVID-19 safety mandates could have negative effects on business operations. Chamber president and CEO Maria Salinas said in a statement the inconsistent public health orders from the county and city will "cause confusion for businesses that are already navigating multiple health orders.”

“This ordinance causes a lack of clarity in and around the LA area, especially for those who do business across city and county lines,” Salinas said.

She added: “The order applies to more businesses and events than the LA County order, which creates inconsistent health guidelines throughout the broader region. A statewide mandate would ensure the consistent application and enforcement of guidance from one jurisdiction to the next."

The LA Area Chamber sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom highlighting the need for statewide vaccine guidelines to ensure consistent application and enforcement across California jurisdictions.

City councilman and mayoral candidate Joe Buscaino proposed a last-minute amendment to the ordinance Wednesday making it a criminal offense to harass employees attempting to enforce the vaccine requirement to enter Los Angeles businesses.

He also suggested setting aside funding to cover increased calls for assistance to the Los Angeles Police Department in anticipation of disputes that may arise with disgruntled patrons.

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The proposal was rejected by the council, though it may be incorporated at a later council meeting where they are expected to receive a report back on enforcement.

Buscaino voted against the ordinance Tuesday after saying during last week’s City Council meeting enforcement of the vaccine mandate is “clear as mud.”

In a statement to Courthouse News, Buscaino said while getting as many people vaccinated as possible is the only way to end the pandemic, he did not support to ordinance because “it will cause confusion and place an undue burden on our small businesses and place our essential workers on the front lines again by making them the main enforcers of this mandate.”

He added: “The LA City Council members are not public health experts. We have relied on the county health experts until now and they are not recommending this mandate which is why the city should not break with them now.”

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Los Angeles County opened Dodger Stadium as a mass-vaccination site.