Los Angeles Moves Ahead on Indoor Vaccine Mandate

Los Angeles appears likely to join New York in requiring that private venues, including restaurants and movie theaters, ensure that patrons are vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Los Angeles City Council voted 13-0 on Wednesday to direct the city attorney to draft an ordinance that will mandate vaccines in indoor public settings, including restaurants, gyms, retail stores, theaters, concert venues and stadiums.

“If we ever want to get back to normal, to what Los Angeles was like pre-COVID, we need to stop the spread,” said Council President Nury Martinez. “If individuals want to go to their gym, go to their local bar without a mask, you need to get vaccinated. And if you want to watch a basketball game, a baseball game, go to a concert in a big venue, or even go into a movie theater, you need to get a shot.”

But the final scope of the ordinance remains in flux, and it is also not clear how it will be enforced. The council also asked the city staff to solicit input from the business community before the measure returns for consideration.

Martinez and the other council members argued that the mandate was needed in order to protect workers and keep the economy open.

“This is a no-brainer,” said Councilman Kevin de León. “My constituents can’t accept another shutdown.”

It is unclear whether the measure will apply to grocery stores, or other essential businesses like pharmacies or repair shops. Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, one of the authors of the motion, appeared to indicate that it would protect grocery workers. But he also said the ordinance would not prevent unvaccinated people from buying food.

Assuming the measure becomes law, it will almost certainly invite a legal challenge.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a more limited mandate for restaurants, theaters and fitness centers last week. That requirement is set to take effect on Aug. 16, though the city will not enforce it until Sept. 13.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is considering its own vaccine mandate, though it is going a bit slower. The board voted Tuesday to ask for a report on potential options, which it will consider later in the month.

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