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L.A. gets aggressive on vaccine requirements as Delta surges. How it affects you

Pedestrians walk the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica on Tuesday.
(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)

With the region still in the throes of the latest coronavirus surge, Los Angeles County is contemplating additional actions that officials hope will help blunt transmission of the highly contagious Delta variant.

The county was ahead of the curve in mid-July when it began requiring everyone — even those who are fully vaccinated — to wear masks in indoor public spaces.

But while officials acknowledged it would likely take a few weeks to assess the full effects of that mandate, they’re already eyeing other measures to turn the tide of the pandemic.

Two L.A. City Council members have introduced a proposal to require proof of COVID-19 inoculation as a condition of entry at a host of indoor public spaces. And the chair of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors has issued an executive order compelling county employees to demonstrate they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 by early fall.

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The latest maps and charts on the spread of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County, including cases, deaths, closures and restrictions.

Time is of the essence as the county works feverishly to counter the latest wave of the pandemic.

Over the last week, Times data show, the county has reported an average of more than 2,800 new cases a day — six times the rate seen four weeks ago, though still well below the distressing heights of the fall-and-winter surge.

On Tuesday, 1,279 coronavirus-positive patients were hospitalized countywide, a fourfold increase in just the last month.

What do we know about the city’s proposal?

A motion, introduced Wednesday by L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez and Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, would require eligible individuals to demonstrate that they’ve received at least one vaccination dose to visit indoor places such as restaurants, bars, retail stores, gyms, spas, movie theaters, stadiums and concert venues.

The proposal will next head to the council’s ad hoc committee on COVID-19 recovery, which consists of Martinez, O’Farrell and Councilmen Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Curren Price and Gil Cedillo.

The L.A. City Council will consider requiring that people show their vaccination status to visit indoor places such as restaurants, stores and gyms.

Should the committee sign off, the motion would then go to the full 15-member City Council for consideration.

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What are the details?

Some are still being worked out.

It’s unclear, for instance, how quickly any vaccine verification mandate could go into effect even if it’s approved. City Atty. Mike Feuer would still have to draft an ordinance codifying the requirement, which would come back to the council for approval.

Some have also questioned what it would mean for vaccinated parents who have children too young to get the shots.

There’s also the potential for some geographical headaches. Los Angeles is just one of the county’s 88 cities, which could lead to confusion for customers if there are differing rules for businesses inside and outside city limits.

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When asked about the motion, Alex Comisar, a spokesman for Mayor Eric Garcetti, said: “The mayor shares the sense of urgency to get more Angelenos vaccinated. He isn’t taking anything off the table and is continuing to discuss this approach with our public health experts at the county.”

The L.A. proposal comes a day after officials in New York City said they will require proof of inoculation status to enter gyms, indoor entertainment venues and restaurants starting later this month.

Vaccination requirements? Some L.A. restaurants and bars already have them

What do business owners think?

Some business leaders said the proposal would offer clarity and consistency, as well as some legal cover for those who support the requirements but may have hesitated to implement them on their own.

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Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn., said the concept “eliminates the piecemeal approach by providing uniformity and clarity.”

“Decisions need to be made in a uniform manner that impact businesses who have been working tirelessly to keep their employees and customers safe,” he said.

Already, more public agencies and private-sector firms, notably retailers and restaurants, are beginning to require proof of employees’ or patrons’ inoculation status or negative coronavirus test.

It used to be hard to find a vaccine appointment. Not any more. Here’s how to get your COVID-19 shot.

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While “getting our economy back on track is vital, and we support efforts to rationally ensure we continue on that path,” the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce also stressed that “input from the business community will be vital for the implementation and rollout of this mandate, if approved.”

“The more we can do to prevent the transmission of COVID and its Delta variant, the more we can keep local businesses open and our communities safe,” the organization said in a statement.

There are also lingering questions about how such an ordinance could be enforced — and who exactly would do so.

“While it will undoubtedly be challenging for restaurants to enforce vaccine mandates for the public, we also cannot afford to go back to the days of shutdowns or operating with severely restricted capacities,” said Jot Condie, president and chief executive of the California Restaurant Assn. “If asking patrons for proof of vaccination in indoor public spaces can help us all avoid more shutdowns, massive layoffs and operating limits, then we will do everything we reasonably can to assist the efforts of local public health officers, as we have done since the beginning of this pandemic.”

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Hilda Solis, chair of the County Board of Supervisors, issued an executive order requiring county employees to provide proof of vaccination by Oct. 1.

What about the vaccine mandate for L.A. County employees?

Hilda Solis, chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, issued an executive order Wednesday evening requiring the county’s 110,000 employees to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 by Oct. 1.

In issuing the order, Solis cited an 18-fold increase in coronavirus cases in the county and a fivefold increase in hospitalizations — mostly involving unvaccinated people — since the county lifted its social distancing restrictions in June and the extra-contagious Delta variant began rapidly spreading across the region.

“As vaccinations continue at a pace slower than what is necessary to slow the spread, the need for immediate action is great,” Solis said in a statement.

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The order said Solis was given the authority to issue such directives when the county declared a local emergency in March 2020. It said the county would work with labor organizations that represent county workers “regarding the effects” of the policy.

Experts say air purifiers can be helpful in combatting the spread of COVID-19, as well as other harmful particles filling the air from wildfires.

Solis said the Oct. 1 due date for proof of vaccination was designed to give employees “the time they need to consult with their healthcare providers” while also “moving expeditiously to protect the health and safety” of all county workers.

The mandate applies to all county departments. Solis said exemptions would be made for medical and religious reasons.

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The order goes further than mandates elsewhere in the country — including by the city of Los Angeles and the state of California — that government employees get vaccinated or agree to regular testing. Solis’ order offers no testing option.


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