Politicians and public health experts across the U.S. have been working to prevent the spread of COVID-19 for more than 19 months now—and once case numbers started to climb over the summer and vaccination rates started to wane, some local officials decided to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations in certain settings. In New York City and San Francisco, for example, everyone is required to show proof of vaccination before entering indoor restaurants, fitness centers, and entertainment venues. New Orleans has also adopted a similar approach, but the city does allow patrons to use a negative COVID test to bypass vaccination requirements. And now, another major city has voted to ban unvaccinated people from most indoor places with the strictest city-based vaccine mandate to date.
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On Oct. 6, Los Angeles City Council approved a vaccine mandate that requires proof of vaccination for almost all indoor areas. According to the Los Angeles Times, the ordinance passed by a vote of 11 to 2. (Joe Buscaino, one of the two council members who opposed the mandate, said he only did so because he had concerns about how it would be enforced.)
Under the new mandate, businesses will be required to check for proof of vaccination when customers enter most indoor facilities in Los Angeles County, starting Nov. 4. The county had already approved an order requiring proof of at least one vaccine dose at indoor bars, breweries, wineries, and distilleries, which was to go into effect on Oct. 7; the plan was for those establishments to require full vaccination by Nov. 4. Now, the new ordinance will also bar unvaccinated individuals from indoor restaurants, shopping centers, movie theaters, hair and nail salons, coffee shops, gyms, museums, bowling alleys, spas, and many other indoor venues.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti is expected to quickly sign this new ordinance into law, spokesman Harrison Wollman told the Los Angeles Times. The mayor already expressed his support for the mandate a week prior to the vote, per The News & Observer. “I don’t want to bury another city employee, police officer, firefighter,” Garcetti said while at a ceremony with California Gov. Gavin Newsom. “People are free not to get the vaccine, but they’re not free to endanger other peoples’ lives.”
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Customers are allowed to submit exemptions for religious or medical reasons, but businesses must require those customers to use outdoor facilities or show evidence of a recent negative COVID test if no outdoor facilities are available, according to the Los Angeles Times. If you have no proof of vaccination or exemption, you are only allowed to enter indoor spaces briefly to use the restroom or pickup an order, per the new ordinance.
Fines for defying the vaccine mandate will start being enacted on Nov. 29. According to the ordinance, the first violation will warrant a warning, while second and third violations will come with a $1,000 fine, and subsequent violations will result in a $5,000 penalty.
“Nothing in this ordinance requires you to go and get vaccinated at all. [But] you will not be allowed to go to put other people at risk,” Councilman Paul Krekorian, who voted in favor of the mandate, said last week, according to the Los Angeles Times. “You have rights. You have liberties. But with those rights and liberties come obligations to protect fellow members of your society as well.”
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