Here’s what you need to know about LA’s new vaccine mandate

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LOS ANGELES (NewsNation Now) — A sweeping new COVID vaccine mandate took effect in the city of Los Angeles on Monday. 

The ordinance, called SafePassLA, is one of the strictest mandates in the country. The mandate requires all individuals ages 12 and older to show proof of full vaccination at indoor businesses such as restaurants, gyms, malls, salons and movie theaters. 

The city’s sweeping new vaccine verification requirements expand on L.A. County’s mandate, which last week started requiring proof of full vaccination at bars, lounges, nightclubs, breweries, wineries and distilleries.

Businesses will be able to accept the following forms as vaccination proof: A CDC vaccination card, a scan or a photograph of the card on a mobile device, or a digital vaccination record issued by the state, city or health care provider.

There are some exceptions to the city’s mandate. Patrons who claim a medical or religious reason for not getting vaccinated can provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours. Unvaccinated patrons may also use outdoor facilities. They can be allowed to briefly go inside the location to use the restroom, place an order or pick up an item if they’re masked.

While the order takes effect Monday, city officials say they won’t start enforcing it until Nov. 29 to give businesses time to adjust. A first offense will bring a warning but subsequent ones could produce fines running from $1,000 to $5,000.

Opponents have voiced concern over the differing rules in the city and county requirements sowing confusion for businesses and customers, and putting those in L.A. at an unfair disadvantage.

But L.A. lawmakers have said that the added safeguards are necessary to avoid a return to business closures as coronavirus remains a threat, and many in the county remain unvaccinated.

Ahead of voting to pass the ordinance, L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez — who introduced the motion — said those who have been vaccinated “deserve to go back to normal.” 

“We’re getting tired of protecting people who do not want to protect themselves and get vaccinated,” Martinez said.

Still, for business owners, the worry is about turning customers away or dealing with unruly ones.

Claire Risoli, owner of Pocha LA in Highland Park, told NewsNation affiliate KTLA she does not want to have to “police” her customers.

“I don’t want to be in the position of having to turn anyone away,” she said.

But yoga studio owner David Gross told the Associated Press he was relieved after L.A. passed the mandate because it meant he and his co-owner don’t have to unilaterally decide whether to verify their customers are vaccinated.

Sarah Wiltfong, senior policy manager at the Los Angeles County Business Federation, told the AP that harassment of workers tasked with verifying vaccine status is the top concern.

“This puts employees in a potential position of conflict, when they’re not necessarily trained to handle situations like that,” she said.

About 72% of L.A. County residents aged 12 and older are fully vaccinated, according to county data.

NewsNation affiliate KLTA and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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