As Delta variant COVID cases continue to rise, the county’s voluntary approach to vaccination shows its limitations and there is growing pressure on indoor vaccination regulations.
Following Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent New York City mandate, both LA city council and board of directors are considering requiring proof of vaccination for entering indoor facilities such as bars, restaurants and fitness centers.
At the state level, the California Department of Health required all hospital visitors to provide proof of vaccination or evidence of a negative result from a Covid-19 test performed within 72 hours of their visit starting August 11.
At the local level, some companies are voluntarily implementing internal vaccination guidelines.
For example, starting August 16, the Rustic Canyon Family, which operates nine local restaurants, will require guests who wish to dine indoors to provide evidence of a full vaccination or a negative test result within the last 72 hours. All guests can continue to dine al fresco regardless of their vaccination status.
The restaurant group spends 10 days sharing information about their upcoming policy, adding messages to their reservation system, and posting posters with a QR code that allows diners to access the state vaccination record system.
“We have a responsibility to truly be leaders and pioneers in our industry to make sure the customers who come in as well as our employees are safe,” said Joel Dixon, president of the Rustic Canyon Family, adding that the company already has a vaccination requirement for its employees.
Dixon said he was inspired by the fact that such guidelines are being used effectively in Seattle restaurants, the new New York City mandate, and mandates voluntarily issued by other restaurateurs like Danny Meyer. Dixon hopes more companies will follow suit as Santa Monica awaits a political decision.
If the respective indoor vaccination regimes, as assessed by the LA City Council and Board of Supervisors, are passed, they only apply to the city of LA and unincorporated areas of the county. Santa Monica, like the other 87 cities in the county, would have to approve its own indoor vaccination mandate for local rules to apply.
If the County Department of Public Health passed a version of an indoor vaccination mandate, it would automatically apply to all areas of the county except Long Beach and Pasadena, as those cities have their own health departments.
When asked during a media briefing on August 5 whether she was considering such a mandate, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer expressed her support for the directive but did not make it clear whether the department would implement it.
“I would like to applaud the cities considering this measure and all companies considering this measure,” said Ferrer. “I know that we are holding discussions with the board of directors, companies and work partners about sensible practices that the district can support.”
The Board of Supervisors is several weeks away from possibly enacting such a directive. On Tuesday, the board approved a motion drawn up by Sup. Janice Hahn is supposed to have employees prepare a report on how the district’s politics would look in two weeks’ time.
LA City Council President Nury Martinez and Alderman Mitch O’Farrell tabled a motion last week requiring eligible individuals to demonstrate they received at least one dose of vaccine to visit restaurants, bars, retail stores, gyms, and spas To visit cinemas, stadiums and concert halls. The council will discuss this mandate and vote on whether to direct City Attorney Mike Feuer to draft an ordinance on August 11th.
There is some debate about which interiors should be covered by this vaccination mandate. In a press conference on Aug. 10, Feuer expressed his strong support for a mandate, saying that he believed it should cover a wide range of voluntary activities, but not necessities like grocery stores.
“I’m here today to urge officials at all levels of government to take concrete action when it comes to vaccination methods,” said Feuer. “We should ask for proof of vaccination to get to so-called optional places, places that aren’t necessary but are popular: restaurants, bars, gyms, and performance venues.”
At that press conference, Fire also called for vaccination mandates for all public employees and anyone boarding flights to LA County’s airports.
He expressed little patience or understanding for those who did not opt for the vaccine and called their behavior “breathtakingly irresponsible”.
Santa Monica officials said they would obey all mandates imposed by the Department of Health.