March 31, 2022

LA to Lift Vaccine Verification Mandate for Indoor Businesses

The City Council passed an urgency ordinance to end proof of COVID-19 vaccination requirements to enter clubs, gyms, theaters, and eateries.

Los Angeles will cease requiring patrons at most indoor establishments and large outdoor venues to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter. The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday passed an urgency ordinance eliminating the mandate.

Though the city will stop requiring proof of vaccination, individual businesses would still be permitted to enact policies requiring patrons to show proof of vaccination. The change will go into effect as soon as Mayor Eric Garcetti signs the ordinance and the City Clerk formally publishes it. It wasn't immediately clear when that would happen.

Wednesday's decision will bring to an end one of the strictest major-city vaccination requirements in the nation. It comes several weeks after other municipalities dropped similar requirements amid plummeting COVID case rates. Over the last two weeks, new COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County dropped more than a third.

The council voted 13-1 to eliminate the mandate with Councilman Mike Bonin dissenting out of concerns that the BA.2 variant could cause another surge. In passing the measure with an urgency clause, the council fast-tracked the process to avoid having to wait 30 days before the mandate could be rescinded.

The city mandate passed last fall requires people over the age of 12 to show proof of vaccination before patronizing indoor restaurants, gyms, entertainment, and recreational facilities, personal care establishments, and some city buildings. The law also requires people to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID- 19 test to attend outdoor events with 5,000 or more people.

The city largely relied upon businesses to verify patrons' vaccination status, yielding inconsistent results.

Council President Nury Martinez introduced the motion calling for a lifting of the requirements. But even with the mandate being lifted, individual businesses will still be permitted to voluntarily require proof of vaccination from patrons.

Bonin, the lone dissenter on the council, said last week he remains concerned about a possible resurgence of COVID-19.

"I know it feels like we're out of the woods. It feels like we're all going back to normal. But there's new variants and new strains all the time," he said. "This BA.2 (variant) is spreading and we really don't know what the variant a month from now or two months are."

Martinez responded last week by saying, "I agree with you on that," and noted that the City Council would have to revisit the vaccination mandates "as we learn to live with this pandemic, unfortunately."

For now, coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are lower than they've been since last summer. On Wednesday, the county announced 29 more COVID-19 deaths and another 587 cases. The number of COVID-positive patients in county hospitals was 325 as of Wednesday, up slightly from 321 on Tuesday. The number of those patients being treated in intensive care was 51, down from 57 a day earlier.

The rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 0.9% as of Wednesday, a slight rise from 0.7% over the past two weeks. It may reflect the spread of BA.2, which is considered at least 30% more contagious than the Omicron variant.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles County will align with the state on Friday and lift the requirement that attendees of indoor mega-events with 1,000 or more people -- such as sporting events or concerts -- show proof of COVID vaccination or a negative test. The county has already dropped its requirement that people show proof of vaccination to patronize indoor portions of bars, nightclubs, and lounges or to attend outdoor mega-events.

Vaccine verification or a negative test is still required for workers at healthcare facilities and congregate-care facilities.

The easing of vaccine-verification requirements follows the lifting of other COVID restrictions such as indoor mask-wearing mandates in response to dwindling infection and hospitalization numbers.

Despite the easing of such restrictions, county health officials continue to urge precautionary steps against virus spread, noting that the BA.2 subvariant of COVID-19 is slowly beginning to expand locally, and will likely gain a stronger foothold in the county, mirroring the pattern seen overseas and in some East Coast cities.

Health officials continue to urge people to take precautionary measures -- including masks -- in crowded situations, even though they are no longer mandated.

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