When the Delta variant sent cases of Covid-19 and resulting hospitalizations to levels not seen in months, some Los Angeles bars and clubs decided to move beyond the county’s mask mandate and instead require that all visitors present proof of their vaccination status. Now, after a few weeks of teases, we’re starting to see similar mandates from the local government take effect.
During the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting on September 15, Public Health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer presented a mandate to require vaccine verification at indoor bars and clubs, as well as proof of vaccination or a negative test result at outdoor mega events; the revised health order will go into effect on October 7. On October 6, the Los Angeles City Council approved a much more far-reaching order that covers most indoor spaces within city limits; that goes into effect November 4.
With all that in mind, here’s what you need to know right now. (The short version: Just always assume you’ll need to show your vaccine card.)
Here’s a cheat sheet of where and when you’ll need to provide proof of vaccination:
L.A. County: Indoor bars, outdoor mega events, some theme parks (one dose)
West Hollywood: Most indoor spaces, including restaurants, bars, theaters, gyms and salons (one dose)
City of L.A.: Most indoor spaces, including restaurants, bars, movie theaters, malls, gyms and salons; large outdoor events (two doses)
L.A. County: Indoor bars, outdoor mega events, some theme parks (two doses)
West Hollywood: Most indoor spaces, including restaurants, bars, theaters, gyms and salons (two doses)
So now let’s get into the long version…
Where will proof of vaccination be required?
Well, that partially depends on where you are in the county. We’ll start with the mandate that covers the widest area: L.A. County will require vaccine verification for both customers and employees at the indoor areas of bars, wineries, breweries, nightclubs and lounges. By October 7, you’ll need to have at least one dose; by November 4, you’ll need to be fully vaccinated. Both Long Beach and Pasadena, which operate their own health departments, will align with the order.
The City of Los Angeles, on the other hand, will require most indoor businesses to check your vax status, including the indoor portions of restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, concert venues, museums, malls and hair and nail salons. That order will go into effect November 4. It’s worth noting that while the City will require vaccine verification at indoor restaurants, the County order merely recommends it (but the strictest order always applies). Also, the City order doesn’t apply to essential services like pharmacies and supermarkets.
West Hollywood passed a similar ordinance to the City of L.A., though that one aligns with the county order’s dates: You’ll be required to present proof of vaccination (one dose by October 7, two by November 4) at indoor restaurants, bars, nightclubs, theaters, cannabis lounges, entertainment venues, health and fitness facilities (including gyms and yoga studios) and personal care establishments (including hair and nail salons, tattoo parlors and massage studios).
The county will also require vaccine verification or a negative result within the past 72 hours for all outdoor mega events (this too applies to both attendees and employees). This specifically covers outdoor events with more than 10,000 people, including most music festivals, massive amphitheaters like the Hollywood Bowl, and just about every professional sport that’s in season right now, including games at Dodger Stadium and SoFi Stadium. And due to a recent revision in the state’s definition of mega events, this now also includes theme parks like Universal Studios Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain. Since mid-August, these rules have also applied to indoor events with more than 1,000 people. For venues within the City of Los Angeles, this will also apply to outdoor venues and events with more than 5,000 people (think: a sold-out crowd at the Greek Theatre).
To whom will the ordinances apply?
For the County order, anyone eligible for a shot (that’s anyone 12 and older) would need to present proof of their vaccination status. For those under 12, expect to see a negative test result available as an alternative. The City order, meanwhile, applies to anyone who “appears to be” 18 years or older; this is also the case in West Hollywood.
How will this be enforced?
But in all seriousness, it’s one of the things Public Health said it considered with its relatively targeted ordinance. Large outdoor venues are already used to scanning tickets and checking bags for tens of thousands of attendees, so these health checks should slide right into that process. And as for bars, they’re already required to ask for ID if you plan on drinking, so consider this just another ID check.
The issue of enforcement has also come up repeatedly during L.A. City Council meetings. The council admits it’s still working that out before the mandate does into effect, but for now the bulk of the enforcement will be on the business side. Those places not in compliance will be warned on a first offense and fined $1,000 on a second, and up to $5,000 for serial offenders; that enforcement begins November 29. West Hollywood has a similar fine structure, and notes it’ll be complaint-driven as opposed to actively enforced.
What counts as proof?
In addition to the CDC paper card, both California and L.A. County offer digital proof of vaccination. A photo of your vaccine card should also suffice.
When will this be implemented?
As we mentioned above, October 7 is the big date for the L.A. County ordinance, when one dose will be required at bars; this is also the case for West Hollywood’s stricter ordinance. On November 4, the Los Angeles County, the City of Los Angeles and West Hollywood will all require two doses and their respective targeted venues.
Why now, as cases are starting to fall again?
Dr. Ferrer pointed out that, after three surges of cases in L.A., it seems fairly clear that Covid-19 will continue to be cyclical as long as we still have large numbers of unvaccinated people. “We doom ourselves, in some ways, to potentially another surge later in October or November, December, when conditions really favor Covid-19 virus replication,” she said in defense of the ordinance’s implementation.
How long will it be in place?
That’s yet to be outlined for the County or West Hollywood orders. As currently written, the City order will remain in place until the mayor’s initial pandemic emergency declaration from March 2020 is lifted.
So people are going to sue over this, right?
During an August meeting, multiple members of the L.A. City Council said they fully expect to be sued over the ordinance (given that callers in the public comment period referred to it as “segregation” and “weirdly cultish” and compared it to “1938 Germany,” that seems like a pretty likely scenario). “This needs to be bulletproof,” council member Bob Blumenfield said. “We need to do things right, but we also know that we will be sued.” In anticipation, council member Paul Koretz cited unsuccessful legal challenges to vaccine mandates at Houston Methodist Hospital and Indiana University, as well as similar policies in place at UC and CSU schools.
This story was originally published August 11 and has since been updated with the latest mandates.