US LA begins enforcing strict mandate requiring proof of vax
Opinion: The most important way of stopping another Covid surge
This past summer's Covid-19 surge, which burned through large swaths of the country, peaked in early September after reaching about 160,000 cases per day. The subsequent decline in cases was steep, but after two months, infections in the United States are rising again. © Steven Senne/AP FILE - Licensed practical nurse Yokasta Castro, of Warwick, R.I., draws a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a mass vaccination clinic, Wednesday, May 19, 2021, at Gillette Stadium, in Foxborough, Mass. U.S. regulators have opened up COVID-19 booster shots to all and more adults, Friday, Nov.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Enforcement began Monday in Los Angeles for one of the strictest vaccine mandates in the country, a sweeping measure that requires proof of shots for everyone entering a wide variety of businesses from restaurants to theaters and gyms to nail and hair salons.
While the latest order aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus took effect Nov. 8, city officials spent the past three weeks providing business owners the information and resources business they need to comply.
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“Nobody wants to penalize anyone,” said Sharon Tso, the city's Chief Legislative Analyst, whose office drafted the enforcement rules. “That's why we've been prioritizing education.”
A first offense will bring a warning but subsequent ones could produce fines running from $1,000 to $5,000. Inspectors with the Department of Building and Safety will enforce the mandate, and the city hopes to eventually get assistance from the LA County Department of Public Health, Tso said. She didn't immediately know if any warnings or citations were issued on Monday.
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Monday was the deadline for 3.5 million federal workers to get their first COVID-19 shot, and 92 percent reported that they were at least partially vaccinated.Now, 98 percent of the agency's workforce is in compliance with the mandate, either by vaccine or exemption.
Los Angeles is among a growing number of cities across the U.S., including San Francisco and New York City, requiring people show proof of vaccination to enter various types of businesses and venues. But rules in the nation’s second-most-populous city, called SafePassLA, apply to more types of businesses and other indoor locations including concert halls, museums and convention centers.
A sign reminding customers to be prepared to show their vaccine cards hangs at the Muddy Paw Coffee Shop in the Eagle Rock neighborhood, where owner Darren Laborie said he's thankful that the vast majority of his regulars have happily complied with the shifting regulations over the past year and a half.
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CDC data shows that the weekly average number of daily cases has continued to increase over the past week. As of Monday, the U.S. was averaging at least 53,772 daily new COVID-19 cases. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky previously announced that the highly transmissible Delta variant accounts for 83 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S.While officials have continued to stress the importance of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, a number of areas that have seen a rise in cases have some of the lowest vaccination rates.
“We have to adapt to whatever rules are coming at us. And our customers go along with us,” Laborie said. Those that don't want to wear a mask or show vaccine proof can sit in the outdoor patio or take their coffees and pastries to go, he said.
One year ago, Los Angeles was becoming the state’s epicenter of the worst spike of the pandemic in California. By January an average of 500 people were dying statewide every day.
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 indoor public spaces including sports arenas, museums, spas, indoor city facilities and other locations. Retail stores and shopping malls are exempt.
Negative coronavirus tests within 72 hours of entry to those establishments would be required for people with religious or medical exemptions for vaccinations. Customers without proof can still use outdoor facilities and can briefly enter a business to use a restroom or pick up a food order.
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The CDC may be hoping to ratchet up pressure on unvaccinated Americans and empower businesses and schools to implement mask mandates, experts say.The CDC is also now recommending universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors inside schools from kindergarten to 12th grade, regardless of vaccination status. That aligns closely with guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommended this month that anyone older than 2 be required to wear a mask in school.
Business trade groups have said the mandate will sow confusion and could present safety concerns for employees tasked with checking customers’ vaccination status. Laborie shares 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 staffing,” he said.
Melanie Bolen happily showed her vaccine card before having lunch inside Fred 62, an upscale diner in the city’s Los Feliz neighborhood.
“I mean, I’m fine with that," Bolen said. "If that’s what’s needed to help get things over with this pandemic, I’m all for it.”
While many cold-weather states are seeing sharp increases in cases, California’s per capita rate has been among the nation’s lowest for two months and that has kept hospitalizations relatively low after a late-summer surge.
Private companies must require vaccines for workers. It's the only way to get past COVID.
Biden and the US government are limited by politics and unclear authority. But private vaccine mandates are legal, ethical and, above all, effective.The unfortunate consequence is that the highly transmissible delta variant is causing surges in cases, hospitalizations and even deaths throughout the country, particularly in spots with low vaccination rates.
In the last two weeks, Los Angeles County hospitalizations have fallen about 10%, mirroring the statewide trend.show a continuing decline through Christmas.
Among LA county’s roughly 10 million people, 82% of eligible residents now have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and 74% of those eligible are fully vaccinated, according to public health officials.
Diane Pullman wore a cloth mask around her neck, ready to pull on when she met a friend for lunch in Eagle Rock. She keeps a digital image of her vaccine card as the home screen of her phone.
“It’s become second nature. Mask on. Vaccine card ready. I honestly don’t find it that disruptive any more,” Pullman said, adding that she hopes the inoculations will be effective on the new Omicron variant of the virus that's spreading overseas.
Omicron has been detected in Canada after first emerging in Africa and then spreading to Europe. The California Department of Public Health warned that “it is only a matter of time” before Omicron is detected in the U.S.
“New variants will continue to evolve as long as there are large proportions of unvaccinated people,” the department said in a statement Sunday urging residents to get vaccinated and follow rules regarding masks in indoor public spaces.
Associated Press video journalist Eugene Garcia contributed to this report.
Overnight Health Care — Biden mandate faces Dem resistance .
Welcome to Tuesday's Overnight Health Care, where we're following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.The developers of a plant-based COVID-19 vaccine said its recent trial showed the vaccine was 71 percent effective against variants, noting the omicron strain was not circulating during the study.Today we're also tracking at least two Senate Democrats who are set to vote against President Biden's vaccine mandate for larger employers, which could come as soon as Wednesday.For The Hill, we're Peter Sullivan (firstname.lastname@example.org), Nathaniel Weixel (nweixel@thehill.