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L.A. County to study whether to require vaccinations in some indoor public spaces

David Aroch, 18, working at Fresco Community Market on Tuesday cleaning his work area.
David Aroch works at Fresco Community Market on Tuesday. The city and county are considering mandating vaccines for entry to some public spaces.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is considering whether to mandate proof of vaccination in some indoor public spaces, such as restaurants and gyms.

A measure approved by the board on Tuesday asks county staff to provide a comprehensive plan in two weeks for how the policy would work, including what settings should be included and options for enforcement.

Supervisor Janice Hahn, the motion’s author, cautioned against jumping to conclusions. She and her colleagues want to better understand the range of options for America’s most populous county, she said.

“I want to get a few more facts about how this would actually work in the county of Los Angeles before we make a decision,” Hahn said.

Hahn said her primary objective is to avoid shutting down businesses that desperately need to stay open after earlier pandemic-related closures.

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Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose 5th District includes the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys, said she’s heard some concerns from restaurants about a possible indoor vaccination mandate “but none of them insurmountable.”

Some restaurant owners want the county to consider a mandate because it would be easier to explain to customers than one they impose themselves.

“Some of them are even concerned about the pushback they may get if they mandate vaccinations and the restaurant down the street doesn’t,” Barger said.

Bennett Erickson, general manager at Sunset Beer checks proof of vaccination form Anthony Trapanese and Caitlin Forst.
Bennett Erickson, left, general manager at Sunset Beer checks proof of vaccination for Caitlin Forst, right, and Anthony Trapanese on Tuesday, in the Echo Park neighborhood.
(Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)

In the city of Los Angeles, the council will consider an indoor vaccine mandate on Wednesday that would require proof of at least one dose to visit indoor places such as restaurants, bars, retail stores, gyms, spas, movie theaters, stadiums and concert venues.

L.A. City Atty. Mike Feuer, who is running for mayor, has been vocal about wanting city and county elected officials to establish an indoor vaccine mandate.

“L.A. County now reports 3,000 or more new confirmed cases per day of COVID-19 — primarily from the highly contagious and dangerous Delta variant,” Feuer said in a statement. “Why? Because millions of eligible L.A. County residents simply refuse to get their shots. We must not let this go on.”

The county board’s next public meeting is Aug. 31, so that would be the earliest that the five supervisors could publicly discuss the report and make their next move.

Questions to be addressed by the report include whether whether one or two doses should be required and which indoor public spaces would be covered by a vaccination mandate. For example, “should grocery stores be exempt?” Hahn wrote in her motion asking for the report.

The report will also include a recommendation on the process for how people could prove their vaccination status and how businesses would verify that status using existing digital or paper records.

Also Tuesday, the board unanimously ratified an executive order that Hilda Solis, its chair, issued Wednesday evening requiring the county’s 110,000 employees to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 by Oct. 1. Exemptions are allowed for medical or religious reasons.

Wearing a face mask, Kristina Brown stocks shelves at a supermarket
Wearing a face mask, Kristina Brown stocks shelves at Fresco Community Market on Tuesday.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Supervisors Hahn and Sheila Kuehl had proposed a motion that would have mandated vaccination for healthcare workers and given other employees a choice of vaccination or regular testing for COVID-19, but Solis’ executive order superseded that.

Because Solis’ order makes vaccination the only option, it remains unclear whether employees with exemptions would be tested weekly.

An estimated 35% of the county workforce is not vaccinated, Hahn said.


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