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L.A.'s new COVID-19 vaccination rules for businesses and venues go into effect today

L.A.'s new COVID-19 vaccination rules for businesses and
venues go into effect today 1

Starting Monday, the city of Los Angeles will impose some of the nation’s strictest COVID-19 vaccine verification rules, covering a wide variety of indoor retail businesses and venues.

The requirement is significantly broader than the rules that have been in place in wider L.A. County for the past month.

Officials say requiring customers to document their inoculation status as a precondition of patronizing select businesses will help reduce the risk of coronavirus spread in higher-risk settings.

L.A. County has seen strong compliance with its more limited ordinance during public health inspections. But both the county and the city say they will initially focus on education and outreach, rather than citations and fines, to make sure businesses are aware of and following the new rules.

Like Los Angeles County as a whole, city officials say they will initially focus on education and outreach to bring facilities into compliance.

Here’s what you need to know:

The rules

  • The city of Los Angeles is now requiring proof of full COVID-19 vaccination to enter indoor restaurants, shopping centers, movie theaters, hair and nail salons, coffee shops, gyms, museums, bowling alleys, performance venues and other spaces.
  • Attendees of outdoor events with 5,000 or more people also will have to show proof of vaccination or that they’ve recently tested negative for the coronavirus.
  • The city’s rules do allow exemptions for religious or medical reasons. However, businesses must require those customers to use outdoor facilities or show evidence of a recent negative coronavirus test to come inside if no outdoor area is available. Customers who have no proof of vaccination or exemption can still enter briefly to use the restroom or pick up a takeout order, according to the ordinance.
  • L.A. is also requiring proof of vaccination to enter indoor city facilities, although unvaccinated people will be provided “alternative arrangements for access to government services,” which could include online or outdoor services or providing a negative test to enter an indoor facility.

Restaurant owners in areas with low vaccination rates worry the new Los Angeles city proof-of-vaccination mandate will be another nail in the coffin.

The penalties

  • Businesses or venues that flout the rules will face penalties — at first a warning, then an escalating series of fines starting at $1,000 and topping out at $5,000 for a fourth or subsequent violation.
  • Enforcement of the city program, dubbed SafePassLA, won’t officially begin until Nov. 29.

“The intention of this isn’t to penalize businesses. Our businesses can’t afford another shutdown,” L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez said. “It’s to limit the transmission of the virus and save lives.”

Added Dan Halden, a spokesman for City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who was one of the council members who first proposed the indoor requirements: “There is broad support for this measure, and we are optimistic there will be compliance as the requirements take effect.”

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

The context

Throughout the pandemic, health officials have often emphasized the importance of employing a layered approach to stemming the spread of the coronavirus.

Vaccine verification at businesses, health officials say, is one way to promote that overall goal. And the state needs to use every tool at its disposal heading into the pivotal winter holiday season.

Already, there are signs the state is experiencing an uptick in coronavirus transmission — though it remains to be seen how significant that ultimately will be.

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

Over the last week, the state has reported an average of 6,040 new coronavirus cases per day, roughly a 9% increase from two weeks ago, according to data compiled by The Times.

Hospitalizations, meanwhile, have plateaued, following what had been a steady decline. On Saturday, 3,793 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide, virtually unchanged from late October.

Though health officials generally believe the state is better positioned to stave off a significant winter wave, given how many people have been vaccinated, they continue to stress that getting more people to roll up their sleeves is the best way to thwart the pandemic.

“Vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals cannot afford to think of themselves as being on different sides here. We’re all on the human side,” said Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “And as a community, we share the goal of wanting to avoid another winter surge. So let’s help each other do that.”

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