L.A.’s COVID rules: Mask and vaccine guidance for out-of-town visitors

A woman uses her phone to show her proof of vaccination
Restaurants, bars, cinemas and indoor shopping centers are among the businesses that will be required to check for proof of vaccination.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

COVID-19 won’t keep families apart for the holidays this year, but it may still crimp their activities in Southern California. That’s because of the rules that the city and county of Los Angeles have imposed on theaters, restaurants and other venues to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The good news is that if you’re fully vaccinated — and can prove it — there’s little you can’t do as a visitor to L.A. County.

A year ago, when vaccines were still in clinical trials, there was little you could do. Gov. Gavin Newsom placed much of the state under a curfew last year shortly before Thanksgiving, barring people from leaving home for non-essential activities after 10 p.m. As infections surged in L.A. County, health officials here banned outdoor gatherings involving more than one household, allowed only takeout service at restaurants, sharply limited the number of customers at movie theaters and other indoor businesses, and required masks and social distancing seemingly everywhere.


This year, theater companies, concert halls, comedy clubs and other nightspots are back in full swing. Restaurants are seating patrons indoors and out. Family reunions can proceed unimpeded. Mask mandates are still around, but “nonessential activity” has dropped from the lexicon.

Which is not to suggest that COVID-19 has vanished from this Earth. The more time you spend with people from other households, the greater your risk of infection.

Here’s a quick roundup of the requirements that public health officials in the city and county of Los Angeles have in place as we go into the holiday season.

The 2021 holidays will be much different from 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 vaccines. But we aren’t quite back to normal. Here’s what you should know.

Nov. 16, 2021

Where proof of vaccination is required

Under a Los Angeles city ordinance, a slew of indoor businesses are required to demand proof of full COVID-19 vaccination before letting you inside. “Full vaccination” means you had received the second Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shot or the first Johnson & Johnson vaccine shot at least two weeks previously.

The city won’t begin enforcing the ordinance until Nov. 29. But numerous L.A. establishments have been demanding proof of vaccination for several months.


The affected establishments include:

  • Restaurants, bars, food courts and coffee shops
  • Gyms and group fitness classes
  • Shopping centers
  • Pool halls, bowling alleys, arcades and card rooms
  • Cinemas, theaters and concert venues
  • Salons, barber shops and tattoo parlors

Also, outdoor events and attractions in the city that are attended by 5,000 to 9,999 people must require either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test result obtained within the previous 72 hours. Tests are available free from the city and the county at more than 200 pharmacies, clinics and pop-up sites.

L.A. businesses are set to enforce proof of vaccine requirement.

Nov. 4, 2021

Unvaccinated people can ask for an exemption by attesting to a medical condition or sincerely held religious belief that precludes them from getting inoculated, but even in those instances, businesses don’t have to serve them indoors. Instead, businesses can steer unvaccinated customers to outdoor seating or demand proof of a negative COVID test result before allowing them indoors.

In the rest of Los Angeles County, proof of full vaccination is required only at bars, breweries, wineries, distilleries, nightclubs and lounges. Unvaccinated people may use the outdoor portions of those businesses, if they have outdoor space.

How do you prove you’ve been vaccinated?

The city and county offer several ways to document your inoculation:

  • Show a vaccination card from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the white one), the World Health Organization (the yellow one) or a similar foreign agency.
  • If you don’t want to risk losing your card, show a photocopy — either on paper or on your phone.
  • Show a digital vaccination record from the state of California or a recognized issuer, such as Healthvana, or a QR code from a company participating in the SMART Health Card program.
  • Provide some other form of documentation from a healthcare provider.

You may also be asked to show a photo ID to verify that the vaccination record belongs to you.


If you are unvaccinated and are asked to show proof of a negative COVID test, the city says you’ll need “a printed document, email, or text message displayed on a phone from a test provider or laboratory” that shows your name, the type of test performed, the date of the test and a negative result.

If you were vaccinated in L.A. County, you’ll have access to a digital vaccine record through Healthvana. It’s not a vaccine passport, though. There are also other ways to get your COVID-19 vaccination records.

June 3, 2021

Don’t forget your mask

Vaccinated or not, you’re going to need a mask to take advantage of the lighter COVID restrictions.

The county’s public health order states that with very limited exceptions, customers and guests age 2 and older at businesses, venues, public indoor settings, gatherings and large outdoor events must wear a face mask except while eating or drinking, showering or remaining alone in a room. The mask mandate also applies to anyone riding public transit (including taxis and ride-share vehicles), at transportation hubs, indoors at schools or other “youth settings,” at healthcare facilities, at prisons or jails, or at a shelter.

No, you will not have to wear a mask to hike to the Hollywood sign. Just don’t try to grab a grilled lemongrass beef num pang from Gamboge for the trek without one.

COVID holidays are here again. Now that we know more about the coronavirus, what can we worry less about?

Nov. 17, 2021