LA mulls NYC-like passport to ‘incentivize’ vaccine uptake as Delta variant surges

A Los Angeles official is spearheading a COVID-19 vaccine passport initiative similar to one New York City announced this week, as the more contagious Delta variant adds to more hospitalizations and deaths, which is complicating reopening plans around the country.

The Big Apple will soon require proof of vaccination in restaurants, bars, entertainment venues and gyms — becoming the first major U.S. city to do so — as the more contagious delta variant continues to spread, primarily among unvaccinated individuals.

And amid a COVID-19 case surge in California, L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer has sent a letter urging county supervisors to require proof of vaccination for certain indoor activities.

“We need to be incentivizing people to get the vaccine,” Feuer told Yahoo Finance Live in an interview this week.

“We need to be saying to people who've taken the [vaccine]…that you did the right thing, and society is going to recognize that,” he added.

L.A.'s move comes as more corporations, businesses and government agencies have decided to require COVID-19 vaccine mandates for workers to return to office as the Delta variant sends hospitalizations and deaths rising in many areas around the country. Some businesses are already requiring proof of vaccination among patrons.

But other than implementing a mask mandate in July for indoor public spaces, L.A. County has left proof of vaccinations up to individual entities and businesses — something that will change if Feuer has his way.

Meanwhile, the vaccine verification push raises concerns about whether just a negative COVID-19 test is a sufficient alternative to being fully inoculated. In an interview with Yahoo Finance, the official explained that “ simply submitting a test isn't good enough.”

Even a same-day negative result “ isn't the same thing as getting a vaccine that's going to help slow the surge that we were experiencing here in California, and throughout the United States,” he said.

In response to an inquiry from Yahoo Finance, the LA County Department of Public Health said it plans to work with city officials “to explore all options for improving rates of vaccinations and promoting safety across all worksites and indoor spaces in LA County,” a spokesperson said.

“Hard-working Angelenos, their customers, and the general public deserve to be safe in public spaces. The vaccines are our most effective form of protection.”Mitch O'Farrell, L.A. City Councilman

Last week, the City of Los Angeles announced that it will require workers in all cities to be vaccinated, or to undergo weekly COVID testing. Next week, LA County will decide whether to implement the same requirements for 100,000 workers.

Yet on Wednesday, Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez and Councilman Mitch O'Farrell introduced a motion that would require eligible residents to show proof of at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to enter indoor spaces in the city, including restaurants, bars, gyms, and concert venues.

“Hard-working Angelenos, their customers, and the general public deserve to be safe in public spaces,” O’Farrell said in a statement. “The vaccines are our most effective form of protection.”

If approved, the motion calls for the city attorney to draft an ordinance with a report on how businesses can comply with the measure.

A number of private businesses in parts of California have already put into practice their own vaccine mandates. And in San Francisco, conversations are swirling about how bars might soon start carding all patrons for proof of vaccination status.

But it's not clear what logistical challenges could arise from a potential vaccine mandate, especially among small businesses still struggling to adjust to pandemic-era changes.

“It is hard for them to have to require that, if they're a small business,” Carolina Martinez, CEO of CAMEO- California’s statewide micro-business network, told Yahoo Finance in an interview.

Meanwhile, requiring people to show proof of vaccination to enter restaurants and bars could also raise ethical questions about potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. Data shows comparatively low levels of uptake among Black and Latinos.

“By having a clear protocol [or] real regulations to move forward, it'll be helpful,” Martinez said. “We're just trying to be as flexible as possible to maintain operations.”

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