LA is considering comprehensive corporate vaccination mandate

MICHAEL R. BLOOD and JOHN ANTCZAK / Associated Press

A proposal to impose one of the toughest immunization mandates in the country on Los Angeles was due to be voted on Wednesday but was postponed a week after a debate among city councilors who generally support the idea but acknowledge that the plan is flawed in writing and there are enforcement questions.

The ordinance requires visitors to most indoor stores and venues to be fully vaccinated before entering. It would greatly expand the restrictions imposed by Los Angeles County’s health officials, due to come into effect next month, and potentially create a confusing system where different rules could apply in neighboring communities.

Corporate groups complained about the potential for excessive fines, conflicting rules, and safety risks for workers tasked with questioning customers about their vaccine status.

The ordinance is being pushed forward at a time when virus cases in the county are rapidly declining and political ambitions are intertwined – two council members are running for mayor, as is the city attorney who drafted the proposal. The Council will re-examine it next week if it could be adopted.

According to the regulation, people eligible for vaccination would need to be vaccinated in order to enter indoor public spaces such as restaurants, bars, nightclubs, gyms, sports arenas, museums, spas, nail salons, urban interiors and other places. The current eligibility includes people aged 12 and over. Negative coronavirus tests are required for people with religious or medical exemption for vaccinations within 72 hours of entering these locations.

“This is no longer negotiable, the risks are far too high,” Council President Nury Martinez told reporters before the council meeting.

When questioned by councilor Joe Buscaino, who is a candidate for mayor, city analysts said they were still investigating which agency would enforce the ordinance. A likely candidate, the city’s Ministry of Construction and Security, lacks the staff, analysts said.

Buscaino once said: “Unenforceable laws are ridiculous.”

However, most members said they supported the proposal even if they needed to make corrections quickly.

“We must not let the perfect stand in the way of the good,” said Councilor Kevin de Leon, another candidate for mayor. “We can save lives”

A growing number of locations in the United States, including San Francisco and New York City, are requiring people to show proof of vaccination in order to enter different types of businesses and venues.

In late summer, New York City required proof of vaccination in order to dine in restaurants and bars or enter certain public places such as museums, theaters, gyms, indoor sports arenas, and concert halls.

The New York City rules do not apply to malls and other retail stores. Compliance has been mixed and enforcement purposely made easy, with the city favoring initial warnings for violations and fines for repeat offenders.

Los Angeles County’s previously announced public health ordinance covers the city and most other communities. It requires proof of COVID-19 vaccination for guests and employees in indoor bars, wineries, breweries, lounges and nightclubs.

Los Angeles County is the most populous county in the country with about 10 million people. It was an epicenter for the virus earlier this year and saw a summer surge due to the delta variant. But last month, LA County’s positivity rate dropped from a high of around 6.5% to 1.4%, while hospital admissions halved to about 900.

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