Los Angeles County’s chief public health officer said Wednesday, Sept. 15, that the county will amend its health order this week to require “targeted” vaccine verification at outdoor mega events and certain businesses, warning that the region will face “endless cycles” of coronavirus surges every few months without more vaccine coverage across the region.

The amended order, which will be posted on Friday, will require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test starting Oct. 7 for outdoor large concerts, sports events and other activities of 10,000 people or more. It will also will mandate customers and employees at the indoor areas of bars, nightclubs, breweries and lounges to show verification of at least one vaccination dose by Oct. 7 and a second by Nov. 4, said Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

Theme parks are also covered under the order, Ferrer said.

“This is a reasonable path forward that can position us to break the cycle of surges,” Ferrer said on Wednesday, Sept. 15, noting that as the fall and winter months loom — potentially periods in which the virus could be even more contagious —  the county faces an “endless cycle” of virus surges every few months without greater vaccination across the county.

The City of Long Beach, which operates its own health department, announced via a statement that it would align with the county’s order. In Pasadena, which also boasts an independent health department, officials said Wednesday that they were reviewing the county order to determine how to respond.

Ferrer addressed the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday, laying out the county’s current coronavirus scenario.

Supervisors did not push back on the proposed order, which came as L.A. County reported another 37 COVID-19 deaths, along with 1,930 new cases on Wednesday.

Kathryn Barger, known for her pro-business approach to policy, wanted to know if there was a threshold number for when such a requirement could be canceled. The answer fell short of what she wanted, with Ferrer suggesting that the county has to fall below the risk of “widespread transmission.” With the Delta variant surging and an enduring reluctance to get vaccinated for many residents, this goal remains elusive.

The new order was not a huge surprise. The wheels were in motion back on Aug. 10, when the board unanimously paved the way toward such a mandate, consulting with officials from the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs and county attorneys. It was modeled after vaccine requirements rolled out in France and other European countries. It also would follow a more aggressive push in New York City, where officials required proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter certain indoor businesses, including restaurants and entertainment venues.

But supervisors and Ferrer held off at the time, choosing to see what kind of numbers would unfold after the Labor Day holiday.

Restaurants will not be included in this week’s new order, according to officials, because are were not as risky as bars, nightclubs, mega events and lounges, Ferrer said. Though, officials plan to recommend that restaurants also follow the requirement.

“The bars, lounges and nightclubs are at much higher risk because of activities people are engaging in,” said Ferrer. “Our inspectors say, for the most part, all of the patrons, all of the customers are there without a mask on, mostly because they have a drink in hand, they are walking around and there’s a lot of dancing, there’s a lot of close contact, with lots and lots of people.”

Ferrer said there are similar issues at big outdoor event venues, adding that there’s “tons of exposure,” from so many people crowded together amid screaming and jumping close together.

Ferrer said these venues were narrowly targeted in a dual effort to promote vaccinations among patrons but also to contain spread after people at such places catch the virus and then spread it back in their communities to their families and coworkers, Ferrer said.

For months, business owners have complained that such requirements burden them with the cost of enforcement while also creating confusion over what proof to accept.

Officials said on Tuesday that the local health order will align with the state’s protocol choices, which include:

–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.

Officials said on Wednesday their hope was that the month-long window before implementing the requirement would give businesses a chance to absorb the protocols, work with Public Health  “toolkits” and partner with county inspectors to prepare.

Ferrer noted that many businesses were already, in a sense, ready because they’ve already designated staff to check IDs. Some business have already implemented their own vaccine and masking requirements. Businesses and venues that host indoor events with more than 1,000 attendees or outdoor events with more than 10,000 attendees had already been required to follow state guidance, which included vaccine verification or a negative test.

Officials also emphasized potential funding sources through federal rescue aid that could help businesses bear any costs of such a requirement.

But it wasn’t assuaging concerns among many in the business community, who were absorbing the news on Wednesday. For them, the order once again tapped into longstanding concerns about what they called inconsistent and their impact on business.

Paul Hennessey, owner of five bars scattered throughout the South Bay, was caught by surprise by the news, which he said would impact all of his properties.

“I thought the numbers were going down,” said Hennessey, the owner of Hennessey’s Tavern in Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach and Manhattan Beach; Rebel Republic in Redondo Beach; HT Grill in Redondo Beach. “I didn’t think they’d be changing anything right now — but who knows?”

“Unfortunately, once again, it’s gonna put my employees in a position that they didn’t get hired to be in. They’ll have to act as police officers, having to do, not just their job, but what the county wants them to do.”

Camila Perry, owner of The Oaks Tavern bar in Sherman Oaks, said the news made her “happy that I did go through the trouble of becoming a restaurant because the guidelines are less strict there.”

She admitted, though, she might experience challenges with her The North End bar in Hollywood, which has a small patio and just a few tables.

She was using a portion of an adjacent parking lot in the first months of the pandemic but eventually had to return it to her landlord after more nearby businesses reopened.

The North End bar in Hollywood has a small outdoor area, she said, making it hard to keep an eye on patrons who have a table on the patio but later might decide to move inside without showing their vaccine verification.

“How are you gonna police that?” she said. “There’s too much fluid movement because it’s like a club.”

Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry & Commerce Association in Van Nuys, called the new order confusing.

“It’s a piecemeal approach, which makes it difficult to follow,” he said. “I wish there was more consistency.”

And while restaurants were only recommended to establish the requirement, in Long Beach, Ciaran Gough, president of the Long Beach Restaurant Association, wondered “why our industry needs to serve as bait to encourage people to get the vaccine. How would we enforce a piece of paper that seems easy to forge? “

The action — in the nation’s most populous county — comes on the heels of the Biden administration’s announcement last week that the Labor Department is working to require businesses with 100 or more employees to order those workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or show a negative test result at least weekly.

Ferrer echoed such measures on Wednesday, noting that the Delta variant has, in effect, become like a whole new disease to fight.

At the same time, there are “vaccination gaps” among populations in the county, which are enabling the disease to stay alive, and keeping the county at a risk of “high transmission” as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the most recent numbers, 75% of eligible county residents age 12 and over have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 66% are fully vaccinated. Among the county’s overall population of 10.3 million, 65% have received one dose and 57% are fully vaccinated. That population figure includes roughly 1.3 million people under age 12 who are ineligible for shots.

But that’s not good enough said Ferrer, who said  “targeted mandates” are now “a very important strategy for quickly raising vaccination coverage across our county and ending the pandemic.”

Thankfully, Ferrer said, hospitalizations are still declining. The number hospitalized in the county with COVID-19 fell another 29 people to 1,185, the state reported on Wednesday, more than 200 less than last week.

The county announced 37 COVCID-related deaths on Wednesday, raising the total to 25,748 countywide since the pandemic began. The 1,930 new cases brought the county total to 1,437,073.

SCNG staffers Harry Saltzgaver, Lisa Jacobs and Olga Grigoryants contributed to this report.