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LA City Council's Vote On Sweeping COVID Vaccine Mandate Delayed By Councilman Buscaino

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The Los Angeles City Council was set to vote Wednesday on a sweeping ordinance requiring eligible people to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter a vast array of businesses but the vote was delayed by Councilman Joe Buscaino who withheld his vote.

Buscaino invoked a City Council rule that allowed him to withhold unanimous consent preventing the council from voting on the ordinance on its first reading. The council will now consider the ordinance next week.

If approved, the ordinance would take effect beginning Nov. 4.

It would apply to:

  • Restaurants, bars, fast food establishments, coffee shops, tasting rooms, cafeterias, food courts, breweries, wineries, distilleries banquet halls and hotel ballrooms.
  • Gyms and fitness venues, including recreation facilities, fitness studios (including for yoga, pilates, dance, and barre), boxing gyms, fitness boot camps and facilities that hold indoor group fitness classes.
  • Entertainment and recreation venues including movie theaters, shopping centers, concert venues, performance venues, adult entertainment venues, commercial event and party venues, sports arenas, convention centers, exhibition halls, museums, malls, performing arts theaters, bowling alleys, arcades, card rooms, family entertainment centers, pool and billiard halls, play areas and game centers.
  • Personal care establishments, including spas, nail salons, hair salons, barbershops, tanning salons, estheticians, skin care, tattoo shops, piercing shops and massage therapy locations, unless medically required.

The ordinance would also require people to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to attend outdoor events with 5,000 or more people.

A waiter serves food to customers dining indoors at Langer's Deli in Los Angeles, California on August 7, 2021. - The restaurant announced that proof of vaccination would be required to dine indoors at the restaurant as Covid-19 variant causes surge in the Los Angeles area. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

This will be markedly stricter than the order passed by the L.A. County Public Health Department earlier this month mandating people show proof of vaccination to enter bars, lounges, breweries, wineries and nightclubs. They will have to show proof of at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine beginning on Oct. 7, and proof of full vaccination by Nov. 4. The L.A. County order also calls for either proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within the past 72 hours to attend outdoor events with 10,000 or more people.

Under the city council ordinance, people would be exempt from the mandate if they have medical conditions that restrict their ability to get vaccinated or a "sincerely held religious belief," which will be reviewed by the location the person is trying to enter.

People who are exempt would be able to use outdoor areas of the location, but if unavailable, they may be allowed to enter the indoor area by providing proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

The motion to request the ordinance passed the city council 13-0 on Aug. 11, with Councilmen John Lee and Joe Buscaino absent. Lee said in an email to constituents two days later that the proposal was "arbitrary, inconsistent and would essentially be ineffective."

Ordinances need unanimous approval upon their first reading. Due to the ordinance's urgency clause, the ordinance would need 12 yes votes upon its second consideration next week, not the normal eight votes required.

"No one is forcing anyone to get vaccinated," City Council President Nury Martinez. said Wednesday. "But if you don't, there are certain things you will not be able to do."

The council debated Wednesday for about an hour with most members expressing support. Then Buscaino invoked the rule to withhold unanimous consent that effectively prevented the vote from happening.

He said the plan on how to enforce the ordinance is not clear.

"I'm really concerned about the impact on businesses having to assign personnel when they're already short-staffed and reeling from the effects of the pandemic," Buscaino said.

Martinez criticized the move saying it was an attempt to keep the ordinance from moving forward. She said the stakes are too high and predicted it will pass.

The ordinance would be similar to policies in West Hollywood, New York and San Francisco. West Hollywood's policy to require adult patrons entering many indoor businesses to submit proof of at least partial vaccination goes into effect on Oct. 7, with full vaccination required beginning Nov. 4.

As of Sept. 23, 77% of eligible L.A. County residents aged 12 and over had received at least one dose of vaccine, and 69% are fully vaccinated.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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