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L.A. County Hopes Its Strict COVID Policies Will Prevent Another Surge

L.A. County Hopes Its Strict COVID Policies Will Prevent Another Surge

Los Angeles has embraced one of the strictest vaccine rules in the United States, requiring residents to show proof of full vaccination before entering restaurants, movie theaters, gyms, and other public spaces. The latest rules are expected to boost vaccination rates in the country’s second-most populous city, but they’ve also prompted a backlash as the vaccines become increasingly politicized by the day.

Last Monday, demonstrators including municipal workers, police officers, dock workers, parents, and teachers protested in front of L.A. City Hall, carrying signs co-opting Democratic slogans that were originally created as part of the pro-choice movement, such as “Freedom Not Force!” and “My body, my choice.” Anti-vaccine protests like the one in LA County have only increased in the weeks since the new school year began, with parents unironically not fighting for their children’s health.

TAMPA, FL – JULY 27: Families protest any potential mask mandates before the Hillsborough County Schools Board meeting held at the district office on July 27, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended those who are vaccinated should wear masks indoors including students returning to school. (Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

This winter is expected to be a potentially deadly time for Los Angeles County, which was pummeled by Covid-19 last winter. At one point last December, one person was dying of Covid every 20 minutes. The region has been pushing strict Covid-19 prevention measures since then, and the new rules, combined with local, state, and federal rules requiring city employees, healthcare staff, and public school children to get vaccinated, means it will have some of the most stringent vaccine mandates in the nation.

But local health authorities still worry it won’t be enough to fend off another surge like the one the country experienced thanks to the highly contagious Delta Variant. The anti-vaccine movement has taken their fight from the streets into courtrooms. The LA police union and a group of 500 local firefighters have already filed lawsuits over a mandate to be fully vaccinated by mid-December or submit to regular testing. So have angry employees of the LA unified school district who oppose the requirement to get vaccinated by November 15th. And all the while, the city has been fielding for religious exemptions to the vaccine mandates, with residents pushing the already blurry lines that define “sincerely held” objections to the vaccine.

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The opposition to the mandates is gaining more traction as the region is bracing for what could be another winter surge. After low transmission rates throughout the summer, the number of infections has crept up again. Although hospitalization rates remain relatively low and flat, LA county has a case rate of about 98 per 100,000 residents, which the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) characterizes as a “substantial” level of community transmission.

City officials are holding off enforcement until the end of November, at which point businesses could be fined thousands of dollars for not complying. On Friday, the city council voted to soften the original mandate, removing malls and shopping centers from the vaccine directive, and requiring proof of vaccination only for those 12 and over.

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