Even as coronavirus cases fall in LA County, health officials this week announced new vaccine requirements for a variety of entertainment and recreation venues.
The measures are cautious, experts say, and aim to prevent – or at least reduce – an expected fall or winter wave. The arrival of the peak holiday season will bring people together from everywhere, and the colder weather will increasingly push gatherings and recreation indoors, increasing the risk of transmission.
“This is a reasonable path forward that will allow us to better break the cycle of flare-ups,” Los Angeles County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said this week.
Gov. Gavin Newsom also called for caution this week, despite improving COVID-19 numbers statewide.
Newsom pointed out that “it was around the same time last year that we also started to see this stabilization and decline.”
âWe have to be vigilant,â he told reporters. “Of course, the best way to mitigate thisâ¦ is to continue our vaccination efforts.”
Regarding LA County’s upcoming vaccine verification plan, Newsom said the state has no plans to adopt a similar tactic right now, but said “if that encourages more people get vaccinated, then I think it’s the right thing to do, and I continue to encourage others. to follow this path.
The main goal of the effort is to increase LA County’s vaccination rates.
About 67% of Angelenos have already been at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Times tracker.
But that’s still below the level of vaccine coverage needed to break the chain of coronavirus transmission, officials and experts say. And the recent rate of inoculation has been so slow that there is a risk of a “cycle of repeated relapses every few months,” Ferrer warned this week.
The pace of gunfire accelerated in late July and early August as the effects of the current wave fueled by the Delta variant became apparent, but that increase in weekly vaccinations has started to fade, data from the county public health department. .
âIn order to avoid a cycle of repeated relapses every few months, we will need a significant increase in vaccine coverage,â Ferrer said.
Under a new health decree due to be released on Friday, verification of a COVID-19 shot or negative test will be required for attendees of outdoor “mega-events” – those with over 10,000 visitors – to LA County starting Oct. 7.
While this covers recurring events such as conventions, concerts, and sporting events, the California Department of Public Health has also extended this definition to include amusement and water parks.
In LA County, that means Universal Studios Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain could be subject to the test or vaccine verification requirement.
âIt’s only for theme parks that have over 10,000 visitors. For smaller parks, they won’t be covered by this, âFerrer said in a briefing Thursday.
According to a 2020 study by engineering firm Aecom, Universal Studios Hollywood averages around 25,000 visitors per day, while Magic Mountain has 9,900 per day.
It was not immediately clear whether the county would use daily park attendance or its operational capacity to determine whether the new rules would apply. County health officials said more information would be provided during a Friday afternoon briefing.
LA County’s requirements will go beyond those outlined at the state level. The California Department of Public Health recommends, but does not require, that participants in outdoor mega-events show evidence that they have recently tested negative for COVID-19 or have been fully vaccinated.
However, the state requires such verification for indoor events with at least 1,000 people.
Indoor bars, wineries, breweries, nightclubs and lounges across much of Los Angeles County will also require proof of COVID-19 vaccination under the new health order.
The mandate will require customers and employees to receive at least one dose of vaccine by October 7 and be fully immunized by November 4.
The order would affect all areas of Los Angeles County except Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own public health departments.
While a Pasadena spokesperson said the city is “waiting to review the health order to determine how we move forward,” Long Beach officials have already decided to align their local rules with those of the county.
LA County is far from alone in using commercial vaccine verification as a new tool in the battle against COVID-19.
San Francisco and Berkeley require customers 12 and older in indoor restaurants, bars and gyms to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Contra Costa County, the third most populous in the Bay Area, has ordered customers of these businesses to show either proof of vaccination or a recent negative coronavirus test result.
Palm Springs and neighboring Cathedral City have ordered guests 12 and older to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a recent negative coronavirus test to enter indoor restaurants and bars.
The new LA County health order will not extend to restaurants, although health officials strongly recommend vaccination checks in interior parts of these businesses.
The county’s ongoing requirement that residents wear masks in indoor public places will remain in place, according to Ferrer.