By CHRISTOPHER WEBER, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Enforcement began Monday in Los Angeles for one of the country’s toughest vaccination warrants, a sweeping move that requires proof of shots for anyone entering a wide variety of businesses, from restaurants to theaters and gymnasiums to nail and hair salons.
As the latest order to slow the spread of the coronavirus went into effect on November 8, city officials have spent the past three weeks providing business owners with the information and resources they need to comply. .
“No one wants to penalize anyone,” said Sharon Tso, the city’s chief legislative analyst, whose office wrote the rules. “That’s why we made education a priority.
A first violation will result in a warning, but subsequent ones could result in fines ranging from $ 1,000 to $ 5,000. Building and Safety Department inspectors will enforce the warrant, and the city eventually hopes to get help from the LA County Department of Public Health, Tso said. She was not immediately sure if any warnings or citations were issued on Monday.
Los Angeles is one of a growing number of cities across the United States, including San Francisco and New York, requiring people to show proof of vaccination to enter various types of businesses and locations. But the rules for the country’s second most populous city, called SafePassLA, apply to more types of businesses and other indoor venues, including concert halls, museums, and convention centers.
A sign reminding customers to be prepared to show their vaccination cards hangs at Muddy Paw Cafe in the Eagle Rock neighborhood, where owner Darren Laborie said he was grateful the vast majority of his patrons had attended. complied with changing regulations over the past year. and half.
“We have to adapt to all the rules that are imposed on us. And our customers are with us, ”said Laborie. Those who don’t want to wear a mask or show proof of vaccination can sit in the outdoor patio or take their coffee and pastries with them, he said.
A year ago, Los Angeles became the state’s epicenter of the worst peak in the pandemic in California. In January, an average of 500 people died every day across the state.
To guard against another spike in cases, deaths and hospitalizations, the LA city council voted 11-2 last month for the ordinance that requires people 12 and older to be fully vaccinated to enter. in indoor public spaces, including sports arenas, museums, spas, indoor city facilities and other venues. Retail stores and shopping centers are exempt.
Negative coronavirus tests within 72 hours of entering these facilities would be required for people with religious or medical exemptions for vaccinations. Customers without proof can still use the outdoor facilities and can enter a business briefly to use the restroom or pick up a food order.
Business groups said the mandate would create confusion and could present safety concerns for employees tasked with checking clients’ immunization status. Laborie shares her concerns that the rules could place an “undue burden” on small business owners.
“A lot of businesses can’t afford to have employees spending their time at the front door all the time. They just don’t have the staff, ”he said.
Melanie Bolen happily showed off her vaccination card before having lunch inside Fred 62, an upscale restaurant in the city’s Los Feliz neighborhood.
“I mean, that’s fine with me,” Bolen said. “If that is what is needed to help overcome this pandemic, I totally agree.”
While many cold-weather states are seeing a sharp increase in the number of cases, California’s per capita rate has been among the lowest in the country for two months and this has kept hospitalizations relatively low after a late-summer surge. .
Over the past two weeks, hospitalizations in Los Angeles County have fallen by about 10%, mirroring the statewide trend. State forecasts show a continued decline until Christmas.
Of the estimated 10 million people in Los Angeles County, 82% of eligible residents have now received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 74% of eligible people are fully vaccinated, according to public health officials.
Diane Pullman wore a cloth mask around her neck, ready to put on when she met a friend for lunch at Eagle Rock. She keeps a digital image of her immunization card as the home screen of her phone.
“It has become second nature. Mask on. Vaccine card ready. Honestly, I don’t find it so disruptive anymore, ”Pullman said, adding that she hopes the inoculations will be effective on the new Omicron variant of the virus that is spreading overseas.
Omicron was detected in Canada after first emerging in Africa and then spreading to Europe. California Department of Public Health warns “It is only a matter of time” before Omicron is detected in the United States
“New variants will continue to evolve as long as there are large proportions of unvaccinated people,” the department said in a statement on Sunday urging residents to get vaccinated and follow mask rules in public spaces. interiors.
Associated Press video journalist Eugene Garcia contributed to this report.
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