Councilman Joe Buscaino withheld his vote for an order that would require patrons to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 to enter indoor spaces such as restaurants, movie theaters, gyms and malls.
After a back and forth discussion on whether Buscaino could withhold his vote on the order, Chief Legislative Analyst Sharon Tso established that he could.
Because of the withheld vote, the order did not get the required unanimous vote on the first reading and will only require eight “yes” votes when brought forward next Tuesday, Oct. 5.
Buscaino remained unsure about enforcement of the order, as Chris Espinoza, Office of the Chief Legislative Analyst, said they would report back on regulations for enforcement as there are no departments with authority to enforce the order.
“We’ve looked at many different departments as enforcement arms and we came to the Department of Building and Safety as the most relevant,” Espinoza said. “We are still going to meet with them to continue to identify a budget and enforcement cycle.”
Espinoza added that there is currently no staff in the Department of Building and Safety, and would have to be “pulled out of general funded code enforcement activities,” or use Public Health inspection.
“Mr. Espinoza clearly said the Department of Building Safety does not have adequate staffing to enforce this ordinance in the first place,” Buscaino said after announcing he would withhold his vote. “I’m looking forward to getting that next week.”
If the city finds a department to enforce the order, citations could potentially be given to businesses who do not comply.
Buscaino said he believes the order could negatively affect small businesses who are short-staffed and would require an additional employee to check for vaccination cards.
“My main concern is that we have to support our essential workers… but I don’t think putting them on the front lines again, as main enforcers of this ordinance is wise or considerate and may place them in harms way,” Buscaino said.”Making a teenager with no formal training, serve as a bouncer to keep people in or out of a restaurant and then fining a business for their failure is not the way to go about it.”
The city order would be stronger than the L.A. County measures, which currently do not require proof of vaccinations for those indoor facilities.
“Nothing in this ordinance requires you to go and get vaccinated, at all,” Councilman Paul Krekorian said, Wednesday. “What it does is provide that there are certain places that if you are not vaccinated, you will not be allowed to go put other people at risk. That is at the essence of what a free society is about. You have rights, you have liberties, but with those rights and liberties come obligations to protect fellow members of your society, as well.”
Krekorian then likened the order to smoking laws that do not prohibit people from smoking, but people cannot do so in places such as airplanes or elevators, saying, “That is the exact same direction this ordinance is going in.”
“If we are to have prohibitions on entry into buildings, we have to be especially certain that in every case, we are able to provide the same level of service to our constituents in every city department,” Krekorian later added.
Other orders in L.A. County have already been applied to indoor and outdoor “mega events,” with indoor arenas requiring proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter events at places such as Staples Center and large indoor music venues. The same applies for outdoor “mega events” such as Dodger games and concerts at the Hollywood Bowl.
“Despite an attempt to not move this forward, this Council will vote to approve the ordinance next week,” Council President Nury Martinez said after the meeting. “We’ve spent too much time placing restrictions on people who did their part by getting vaccinated and wearing their masks. We need to both limit the transmission of the virus as well as make it inconvenient for those who are unvaccinated to access indoor venues and put lives at jeopardy. The stakes are too high.”
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