City Council of Los Angeles
Los Angeles City Council Chamber. photo by John Schreiber.

Proof of at least partial vaccination against COVID-19 would be required to enter public indoor spaces in the city of Los Angeles, including restaurants, bars, gyms, concert venues, movie theaters and even “retail establishments,” under a proposal introduced Wednesday by City Council President Nury Martinez.

“Enough is enough already,” said Martinez, who introduced the motion with Councilman Mitch O’Farrell. “Hospital workers are exhausted, moms who have put aside their careers are tired, and our kids cannot afford the loss of another school year. We have three vaccines that work and are readily available, so what’s it going to take?”

The proposal is similar to a policy announced this week in New York City, but it would be more restrictive with the inclusion of retail establishments, potentially limiting access to some basic necessities. The New York policy restricts access only to more entertainment-oriented venues such as indoor restaurants, fitness centers and theaters.

According to O’Farrell’s office, the exact businesses that would fall under the restrictions would be determined during the drafting of the ordinance by city attorneys. No determination has yet been made on whether such retail restrictions would extend to grocery stores.

“Hard-working Angelenos, their customers and the general public deserve to be safe in public spaces,” O’Farrell said. “The vaccines are our most effective form of protection, and the time to act is now.”

The motion, if passed by the City Council, would instruct the city attorney to prepare an ordinance requiring “eligible individuals” to have received at least one dose of the vaccine before entering indoor public spaces in the city.

“Kudos to Council President Nury Martinez for introducing her motion to require patrons of restaurants, bars, gyms and performances to be vaccinated,” City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a statement to City News Service. “I called for the LA County (Board of Supervisors) to make this a countywide requirement so we’d have clarity and consistency throughout our region. This motion might help encourage that important step.”

The motion was also supported by Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who last week introduced his own motion to require city employees to be vaccinated.

“In light of the recent rise in infections and hospitalizations due to the more contagious Delta variant, I believe now is the time to double down on our preemptive measures,” Ridley-Thomas said. “Across the country, states are requiring proof of vaccinations and the city of Los Angeles must follow suit. Mandatory vaccinations are unavoidable. We all need to do our part to prevent the transmission of this deadly virus.”

Councilman Joe Buscaino added, “We must do everything in our power to avoid another shutdown. The rapid increase in cases means that we have to use every tool available to protect our neighbors and our economy.”

The motion would also instruct the Community Investment for Families Department to report immediately on how to expand the Vax UP L.A. campaign and what resources are needed for a citywide outreach and education program in an effort to expand vaccine coverage.

If the motion is approved, the Chief Legislative Analyst would work with other city departments to create an implementation strategy for the requirement and the city attorney would report to council with a course of action for ensuring compliance.

Councilman Paul Koretz threw his support behind the motion Wednesday, saying “Vaccination rates are just not happening fast enough and unfortunately, it seems that the only way to stop the aggressive spread of the virus is through aggressive policy.”

Councilman Kevin de León agreed:

“We’ve got to stop playing games with this virus. Vaccines are the best protection against serious illness and death, so it’s time for us to get serious about protecting our city’s workers, families, and businesses,” he said.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office didn’t respond directly to the motion, but said in a statement, “With cases and hospitalizations rising rapidly, we are not taking anything off the table.”

County health officials continue to urge vaccinations as the best defense against COVID-19 infections, which are disproportionately affecting the unvaccinated and landing them in hospitals.

County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said last week that of all the people who were hospitalized in the county due to COVID-19 in June, 92% were either unvaccinated entirely or not fully vaccinated. The figure was 95% in May. For the first 10 days of July — the most recent statistic available — the rate was 91%.

Ferrer also said that 99.8% of the COVID fatalities in the county during the first six months of the year occurred among the unvaccinated. The rate was 96% from April 1 to June 30, a period during which vaccines were more widely available.

Of the county’s 10.3 million residents, 60% have received at least one dose, and 52% are fully vaccinated. Roughly 1.3 million residents under age 12 remain ineligible for the vaccine.

Among residents age 16 and over, 72% have received at least one dose, and 63% are fully vaccinated, according to the most recent county figures. The rates are significantly higher among older residents, with 89% of county residents aged 65 and over with at least one dose, and 79% fully vaccinated.

The Martinez-O’Farrell motion will be reviewed by the council’s Ad Hoc Committee on COVID-19 Recovery and Neighborhood Investment before moving before the full City Council.

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