On Wednesday evening, the Los Angeles City Council voted 11–2 to approve a new ordinance forcing local businesses and venues to demand that patrons provide proof they’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19.
If you want to go to a restaurant or see a film, have your hair done, or spend any time in an indoor establishment, then documentation will need to be provided that proves they are vaccinated.
Los Angeles’ drastic actions would lead you to believe that it is a sign that people are struggling to get vaccinated, or that COVID-19 has risen dramatically in this area. This is the whole truth. Nearly 77 per cent of Los Angeles County residents are eligible for at least one shot. Nearly 70% are fully vaccinated. This full vaccination rate is almost 15 percentage points above the national rate and 10 percentage points higher in New Jersey than it is for the rest.
The number of new COVID-19-related infections is also on the rise in L.A. County. While they may not be at the same levels as they were prior to the spreading of the delta variant, the numbers are increasing every day and are closer to what the city had before it lifted the indoor mask ban.
The L.A. City Council, mayor, and others are pressing ahead with the plan in the hope that they will get the rest of the holdouts vaccinated.
“These new rules will encourage more people to get the shot, and make businesses safer for workers and customers—so that we can save more lives, better protect the vulnerable, and make our communities even safer as we fight this pandemic,” Mayor Eric Garcetti explained in a statement.
We must be clear: This is what the city does. It outsources responsibility to get people vaccinated, and that is fine. Failure to adhere to the law can result in a fine. NotUnvaccinated persons trying to enter restaurants or movie theatres without being screened. Businesses that do not catch them will be fined. For the first offense, fines begin at $1,000 and go up to $5,000 for each subsequent violation.
Compliance with the ordinance will be difficult. There are many standards for verifying vaccinations. The ordinance states that a picture of your card with your vaccinations on it is enough. Although it is good to see that L.A. has not tried to force anyone to take a photo of their vaccination card on their phone, it will be a nightmare for businesses employees who want to verify that they haven’t been fined.
There are exemptions to the mandate for persons who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons or religious beliefs. The patron must “self attest” that he has not been vaccinated and also provide recent COVID-19 results (though they don’t need these test results for outdoor seating). This means anyone who refuses to receive a vaccine will still be allowed to visit the same locations if he speaks the magic words.
This is up to the individual who’s not vaccinated. This is not a suggestion that L.A. ought to be using its power to make people vaccinated.
L.A. is not allowed to use its authority to forcibly monitor local citizens. It is basically a collective punishment. Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles (which has its own vaccine mandate) will have to assume responsibility for any behavior that is not in line with the law. Even though businesses that commit mistakes aren’t responsible for the behavior of their patrons, they will have to pay the City money.
John Lee, a councilmember, opposed the ordinance. Lee noted that it was “punitive towards businesses”, didn’t offer an incentive for those not vaccinated, and just furthered the existing patchwork regulations in the area.
Joe Buscaino was the other member of the council who voted against the amendment. He tried to amend it to make harassing employees to enforce the rules illegal and get staff to examine funding sources that could help companies comply. His amendment was not supported by a second member of council. Although some of the negative consequences of this ordinance were obvious (I can guarantee that patrons will harass staff following the law and others will call police to accuse businesses disregarding the law in retaliation for a petty dispute), Councilmember Mark Ridley Thomas said these amendments required more scrutiny before they could be considered by councilmembers.
Many L.A. businesses are happy to only serve vaccinated customers. Many have already introduced vaccine checks. However, the enforcement of the ordinance poses significant risks for people who have not been vaccinated but are just going about their daily lives.