With Delta variant COVID cases continuing to surge, the County’s voluntary approach to vaccination is demonstrating its limitations and there is a growing push towards indoor vaccination mandates.
Taking cues from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent mandate for New York City, both L.A. City Council and the Board of Supervisors are considering requiring proof of vaccination to enter indoor establishments such as bars, restaurants and fitness centers.
At a state level, the California Department of Public Health has mandated that starting Aug. 11, all hospital visitors show proof of vaccination or proof of a negative result on a Covid-19 test administered within 72 hours prior to their visit.
At a local level, some businesses are voluntarily instituting indoor vaccination policies.
For example, starting Aug. 16 the Rustic Canyon Family, which operates nine local restaurants, will require guests wishing to dine indoors show proof of full vaccination or a negative test result taken within the past 72 hours. All guests are welcome to continue dining outdoors regardless of their vaccination status.
The restaurant group is spending 10 days sharing information about their upcoming policy, adding messaging to their reservation system, and mounting posters with a QR code that allows diners to access the state vaccination passport system.
“We feel we have a responsibility to really be leaders and pioneers within our industry to ensure that the customers who are come in are safe as well as our employees,” said Rustic Canyon Family President Joel Dixon, adding that the company already has a vaccination requirement for its employees in place.
Dixon said he was inspired by seeing such policies used effectively at restaurants in Seattle, by New York City’s new mandate, and by mandates voluntarily enacted by fellow restaurateurs such as Danny Meyer. Dixon hopes more businesses will follow suit, while Santa Monica awaits a decision at a political level.
If the respective indoor vaccination measures being considered by L.A. City Council and the Board of Supervisors pass, they will only apply to the City of LA and unincorporated areas of the county. Santa Monica, like the other 87 cities in the county, would have to approve its own indoor vaccination mandate for the rules to apply locally.
If the County Department of Public Health were to pass a version of an indoor vaccination mandate, it would automatically apply to all areas of the county with the exception of Long Beach and Pasadena as these cities have their own health departments.
When the Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer was asked whether she is considering such a mandate during an Aug. 5 media briefing, she expressed support for the policy but did not clarify whether the department will enact it.
“I want to applaud the cities that are considering this measure and all of the businesses that are considering this measure,” said Ferrer. “I know that there are conversations that we’re having with both the Board of Supervisors, businesses and labor partners about what are sensible practices that the county can support.”
The Board of Supervisors is still several weeks away from potentially enacting such a policy. On Tuesday the Board approved a motion created by Sup. Janice Hahn to have staff produce a report in two weeks about what the county’s policy would look like.
L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez and Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell introduced a motion last week that would require eligible individuals to demonstrate that they’ve received at least one vaccination dose to visit indoor restaurants, bars, retail stores, gyms, spas, movie theaters, stadiums and concert venues. Council will discuss this mandate and vote on whether to direct City Attorney Mike Feuer to draft an ordinance on Aug. 11.
There is some debate over what indoor establishments should fall under this vaccination mandate. In an Aug. 10 press conference Feuer expressed strong support for a mandate and said he believes it should apply to a broad range of voluntary activities, but not necessities like grocery stores.
“I’m here today to urge officials at every level of government to take firm specific action when it comes to vaccination methods,” said Feuer. “We should be requiring proof of vaccination to enter what I call optional locations, locations that are not necessary, but nonetheless, are popular: restaurants, bars, gyms and performance venues.”
In this press conference, Feuer also called for vaccine mandates for all public employees and for everyone boarding flights to L.A. County airports.
He expressed little patience or understanding for those who have not elected to receive the vaccine, calling their behavior “breathtakingly irresponsible.”
Santa Monica officials said they would follow any mandates imposed by the Public Health Department.