LA City Council at Odds Over COVID Mandate Requiring Shot to Enter Bars, Salons, Gyms

As the Los Angeles City Council voted to impose a sweeping COVID-19 vaccine mandate for entry to certain public spaces, the council was at odds with critics who said that the requirement would be difficult to enforce or exclude the unvaccinated, the Associated Press reported.

The City Council approved the mandate Wednesday after last week's vote was delayed so members could address concerns like violation fines and potential aggression toward employees trying to enforce the requirement. The mandate will require full vaccination for anyone seeking to enter public areas like malls, restaurants, bars, gyms and sporting events.

Members of the council were generally in support of the requirement as they looked to curtail further spread of the virus. Business trade groups were among the measure's critics, saying that because the city's requirements would differ from requirements in the larger Los Angeles County, the AP reported.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

LA City Council Considering Vaccine Mandate
Los Angeles leaders are poised to enact one of the nation's strictest vaccine mandates, a sweeping measure that would require the shots for everyone entering a bar, restaurant, nail salon, gym or even a Lakers game. A COVID-19 vaccination record card is shown at Seton Medical Center in Daly City, California, on December 24, 2020. Jeff Chiu/AP Photo

Mayor Eric Garcetti expressed his support for a vaccine measure last week, saying: "I don't want to bury another city employee, police officer, firefighter."

The ordinance requires people to be fully vaccinated to enter indoor public spaces including shopping malls, restaurants, bars, gyms, sports arenas, museums, spas, nail salons, indoor city facilities and other locations. Current eligibility includes people age 12 and up.

Negative coronavirus tests within 72 hours of entry to those places would be required for people with religious or medical exemptions for vaccinations.

Council President Nury Martinez has said it is clear that the vaccines work but too many people remain unvaccinated despite widespread availability and door-to-door campaigns to vaccinate more people.

The ordinance arrives at a time when COVID-19 cases are plunging while political ambitions are rising — two council members are running for mayor, as is the city attorney who wrote the proposal.

During a recent City Hall meeting, councilman and mayoral candidate Joe Buscaino challenged the measure as being "clear as mud" regarding enforcement.

"Making a teenager ... serve as a bouncer to keep people in or out of a restaurant, and then fining the business for their failure is not the way to go about it," he said.

Buscaino also noted that the conflict between the city's measure and the county's vaccination mandate, which only covers patrons and workers at indoor bars, wineries, breweries, lounges and nightclubs. The county will require proof of one dose as of Thursday, while proof of full vaccination will be required by Nov. 4.

Of the county's roughly 10 million residents, 78 percent have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and 69 percent are fully vaccinated, according to public health officials.

The county on Tuesday reported 35 new deaths and 964 new cases of COVID-19. Health officials said the county has reported 14 deaths a day, on average, even though deaths and hospitalization figures have plunged by some 50 percent since late August.

A growing number of places across the U.S., including San Francisco and New York City, are requiring people to show proof of vaccination to enter various types of businesses and venues.

New York City this summer began requiring proof of vaccination to dine inside restaurants and bars, or to enter certain types of public places, including museums, theaters, gyms, indoor sports arenas and concert halls.

Compliance has been mixed and enforcement purposefully light, with the city favoring initial warnings for violators and fines for repeat offenders.

California Proof of Vaccination Requirement
A proposed Los Angeles City Council mandate would require full vaccination for anyone seeking to enter public areas like malls, restaurants, bars, gyms and sporting events. Pharmacist Ashley McGee fills a syringe with the Pfizer COVID-19 booster vaccination at a vaccination booster shot clinic on October 1, 2021 in San Rafael, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images