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Los Angeles County on Friday, Sept.16, planned to revise its health order, requiring certain businesses to require proof of vaccination or negative testing for employees and customers.

The order had not yet been formally issued as of Friday afternoon, but Public Health  Director Barbara Ferrer presented an overview during a livecast briefing.

The order will cover outdoor mega-events, such as large concerts, sports events and other activities of 10,000 people or more. It will also mandate vaccinations for customers and employees at the indoor areas of bars, nightclubs, breweries and lounges.

But what is that going to look like in LA County — arguably the mega-event capital of the world — and why, after promising signs that the county has at least made a dent in the highly contagious Delta variant, is this even happening? The looming action has also prompted questions about what kind of proof would be required to get into the venue, and concerns linger among some employers about having the resources to monitor for that proof.

With such questions lingering, we inquired.

How do I get into a mega-event now?

Let’s say you’ve got tickets for the Sept. 26 Rams game at SoFi Stadium against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Well, you’re in the clear at this event and others like it. Just bring your required mask. But that won’t last for long.

Under the vaccination proof/testing new mandate, big venues that accommodate 10,000 or more must comply with the order starting Oct. 7.

That means they’ll be asking for vaccination verification, or a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours before attending an outdoor mega-event.

Pick your event or attraction, the rules will be the same, if 10K are expected  …. Dodgers game? Required. Universal Studios? Got to get proof. Rolling Stones at SoFi in October?  Yeah. Get your vaccination proof ready if you’re aching to hear a pandemic-era live and in-person version of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”

Here’s what Ticketmaster had to say, regarding your ticket.

“By purchasing tickets for this event, I confirm that at the time of the event I will provide verification that I will either have been fully vaccinated or received a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of the event, and agree to wear a mask for the duration of the event except when actively eating or drinking. Please note this requirement will apply to all members of your party before they are allowed to enter the event.”

Public health officials say none of this should be too heavy of a lift, because mega venues already have been required to give such proof for indoor mega-events since the spring.

Big venues appeared a bit reluctant to talk about what getting into a venue will look like, ahead of the actual posting of the revised order on Friday. But it was clear many were gearing up.

In fact, many — such as most festivals in Southern California — already were on their own, including last weekend’s BeachLife Festival in Redondo Beach and the Same Same But Different event at Lake Perris State Recreation Area in Riverside County, which were both under the “mega-event” capacity.

Many Live Nation venues and festivals have already implemented a similar rule. AEG Presents is going a step further in mandating vaccines for attendance at all of its venues and festivals as of Oct. 1.

Ferrer said the public health officials will meet with venues and activities that draw near or just under 10,000 visitors to determine their status.

What if I just want to go to my neighborhood bar? I’ve got to be vaccinated now?

Under the revised rule, starting Oct. 7, you’ve got to have at least one dose, and the second dose by Nov. 4.

That rule covers customers and employees at indoor portions of bars, nightclubs, breweries, wineries and lounges.

Like the big venues, some places have established their own individual requirements. But under the county’s revised rule, the roughly four-week head start gives customers and employees a chance to gear up and comply with the Oct. 7 implementation.

Why does the rule just cover bars, nightclubs, breweries, wineries and lounges? Why not restaurants and other facilities?

Ferrer said the order comes with a strong recommendation that restaurants, too, require proof of vaccination.

But bars, night clubs, breweries, wineries, lounges and mega-events were considered a narrow group of places where the risk of transmission was particularly high, Ferrer said, noting that public health inspectors found the riskiest activities to spread in those environments. These are drinking establishments with either no restaurant permit or a low-risk restaurant permit

“Based on our feedback from our health inspectors, the bars, lounges and nightclubs are just at much higher risk because of the activities that people are engaging in,” Ferrer said., noting that “for the most part, all of the customers are there without masks on … drink in hand,  there’s lot of dancing, lots of close contact with lots and lots of people… .”

Ferrer said the goal is two pronged: 1) to encourage vaccinations, and 2) stop transmission from spreading from high-risk venues to the larger community.

In a Public Health report  back in August on the feasibility of such a requirement, officials noted that:

“Indoor public settings where people are permitted to remove their mask for an extended period of time when around others enable more droplets and airborne particles to enter the indoor area and be breathed in by others who are also not wearing their masks. This would include indoor portions of businesses that serve food and drinks, such as restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries, nightclubs, and lounges. Those activities, she said, included lots of screaming, jumping up and down in crowded spaces, dancing and lack of wearing masks.”

According to Ferrer: “We didn’t propose at this point that much more encompassing set of requirements for almost all of our businesses and instead are moving more strategically in places where there’s the highest risk and the easiest implementation, to be honest.”

What kind of proof is required?

The days of self-attestation appear to be over. The honor system of verification, where you could just say that you’d been vaccinated “is not an option,” according to the county’s feasibility report.

According to the report: “The State will no longer allow self attestation to be used by an individual to verify their status as fully vaccinated for certain indoor settings where verification is required.”

That means the county is aligning with the state’s guidance on acceptable modes of proof required:

–A COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card (issued by the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control & Prevention or WHO Yellow Card1) which includes name of person vaccinated, type of vaccine provided and date doses administered); or

–A photo of a vaccination card as a separate document; or

–A photo of the client’s vaccine card stored on a phone or electronic device; or

–Documentation of vaccination from a healthcare provider; or

–A digital record that includes a QR code that when scanned by a SMART Health Card reader displays to the reader client name, date of birth, vaccine dates and vaccine type; or

–Documentation of vaccination from other contracted employers who follow these vaccination records guidelines and standards.

Larger venues have voiced concern that such a variety of proof methods could slow the process of filtering customers into stadiums. But county officials say such challenges have been worked through by other businesses that have already established vaccination requirements.

Many have touted the idea of the county investing in a digital vaccination pass system to verify vaccination status — similar to such cities as New York and New Orleans.

Critics of such a system cite privacy concerns and potential inequities in the population — because many seniors, lower-income or unhoused individuals could struggle with digital access.

But proponents say moving to such a system would make it easier for businesses to check vaccination status without having to go through each customer’s individual vaccination record to verify their name, ID, and date(s) of vaccination and would speed customers’ entry into businesses.

Often, businesses have protocols already set up.

AEG venues, for instance, will accept a physical copy of a COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card, a digital copy of such a card or “such other proof as is permitted locally.”

What if you don’t have, or don’t want a vaccination?. Can you get tested on-site?

Yes — but only if it’s available. Make sure to check with the venue BEFORE to decide to attend.

Several local venues offer a form of rapid on-site testing, antigen tests that can render results in a matter of 10 minutes to screen people coming in.

But there’s also the possibility that such testing, which still remains scarce, would result in an increase in the cost of admission to a venue.

There are also still questions over who pays for such testing. Does it remain in private hands, for those who have made a choice not to get vaccinations, which are free? Or, if the testing is “medically required” does the public bear the cost of such testing?

Ferrer said the state has been an advocate of insurance company plans to cover screening testing.

“There’s only so much money that the federal government is going to be able to cover,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger. “And I do want to make sure we do have robust testing in place in the county.”

“These businesses should be able to pay for their own testing, for their own employees,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, noting areas in her supervisorial district where testing capacity is stretched.

The bottom line: Don’t assume you can get tested on site. Check with the venue or event in advance.

I own a business impacted by this and I fear it will be a burden. What can I do? 

Public Health officials say they will work with businesses to make sure they have access to resources that would help establish a verification system.

Most of these businesses require ID to get in in the first place, Ferrer said, noting that whoever checks the ID can also verify a person’s vaccination.

How will the requirement be enforced?

Ferrer said she has “confidence” that businesses will step up to comply with the new order.

“We spent 20 months together as an L.A. community really relying heavily on everybody understanding the reasons for the rules and abiding to the best of their ability to what they’re being asked to do,” she said. this week. “And I want to give a lot of credit to our bars, our nightclubs, our lounges, our restaurants, our businesses, our large event venues who have been with us on this journey for many, many months with many different requirements placed on them depending on what we were seeing in terms of transmission.

“So I have a lot of confidence we will have high compliance with these requirements,” she said. “As always we will be sending out our health inspectors to provide technical assistance and support. As with every other health officer order, folks who continue to violate the orders are subject to citation. We’ve issued very few citations. I think that really speaks to the level of cooperation. We’re in this together. And frankly at this point everything we can do to avoid getting ourselves positioned for another disastrous surge in the winter is something we’re all going to unite behind.”

I have family who come to the business, and some are younger than 12. Will they be prohibited?

Public health officials say they will work with businesses to carve out guidelines for such exceptions.

 I thought case rates were going down. Why is this happening in the first place?

You’re right. Case rates are going in the right direction and weeks of unnerving growth.

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But vaccination rates are not increasing at the rate officials were hoping for. After high demand throughout the first half of the year, the county has hit a wall: 5,899,901 people were fully vaccinated by Sept. 13 out of a 12-and-older eligible county population of 8.8 million.

And if you add in the population of youngsters under 12, who have yet to be vaccinated, the county is far from attaining herd immunity.

Public health officials worry, too, that vaccination gaps continue to plague underserved communities, where longstanding distrust of government and  healthcare systems has hindered the public health response.

Unless vaccination rates improve, Ferrer said she fears an “endless cycle” of surges in the months ahead — especially during winter’s colder weather.

Ferrer also said the virus continues to evolve, threatening to cascade into new variants. The unvaccinated will face the greatest risk as the threat morphs.

The vaccine requirement, Ferrer said, seeks to encourage people to get their shots but also ensure that the virus is not spread from mega-events, bars and nightspots into the larger community.

Source : https://www.dailynews.com/2021/09/17/qa-what-you-need-to-know-about-la-countys-new-coronavirus-vaccine-rules

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