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Nora Hacikian, RN, BSN, prepares a dose of a Pfizer vaccine during an April 2021 vaccination clinic in Malibu.

A new health officer order has been issued in Los Angeles County that will soon require proof of vaccination to enter bars, wineries, breweries, nightclubs and lounges in an effort to curb COVID-19 spread.

While Malibu is currently not home to indoor bars without an attached restaurant, LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer has said she strongly urges vaccine verification for indoor portions of restaurants. The new vaccine mandate will require patrons (ages 12 and over) and employees at indoor drinking establishments to verify they have had at least one dose of vaccine by Oct. 7. Employees at such establishments must provide proof of a second shot (if using the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine) by Nov. 4. The order will also require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test for outdoor mega-events with over 10,000 attendance such as ball games and concerts at indoor and outdoor stadiums. 

“Self-attestation is not a permitted method for verification of vaccination or test result,” according to the county’s health order—a vaccine card, photo of a vaccine card or state-issued digital vaccine record may be used.

What affect will the new rules have in Malibu?

Virtually all of Malibu’s bars are attached to restaurants, which makes them exempt from the new rules which only apply to establishments that do not serve meals. Outdoor space for dining and drinking is also widely available in town.

Barbara Bruderlin, CEO of the Malibu Chamber of Commerce, told The Malibu Times she didn’t think the mandate would affect local business.

“Most people I know want all the protection they can get,” Bruderlin commented. “Personally, I think this will be good for business. There are people that will now feel more comfortable going out, especially older people or people with family they don’t want to get sick.” While Bruderlin said she knows there are some people fighting vaccine mandates, she did say, “Malibu doesn’t seem to be. I’ve seen a lot of cooperation so far with LA County guidelines.”

Bruderlin pointed out California’s current low COVID-19 infection rate, saying, “We’re doing everything right [in California].”

Jimmy Chavez, general manager of Duke’s Malibu Restaurant, said his establishment was prepared to shift gears if LA County began requiring vaccinations for restaurants, but would not be requiring vaccinations unless it became a county health order.

“Our stance is we’re going to follow any health order given from the health department to a T,” Chavez said. According to the manager, new regulations at restaurants could be “burdensome” at such a large restaurant, but he and his staff already had plans in place should they become necessary.

“We’ve already had to game plan out how we would do that,” Chavez said. “We’ve got two entrances and a lot of people in and out, and it’d be quite a bit of effort to enforce it in our building.”

While the latest state surge was waning, health officials were gearing up for what could be another winter resurgence that happened last year when more people gathered indoors over the holiday season. Governor Gavin Newsom recently commented, “it was around this time last year we started to see that stabilization and decline as well, yet to experience that winter surge.”

Vaccines were not available at this time last year, but the powerful Delta variant had not yet emerged as a health threat, either.

Last month, LA County was recording 3,400 new coronavirus cases on average daily. So far this month, cases have declined by roughly 47 percent averaging about 1,800 cases a day—and falling.

Targeting bars with COVID-19 restrictions is not new. In March 2020, bars were the first businesses ordered closed when the pandemic struck. Ferrer stated that county health inspectors have witnessed small venues where “for the most part, all of the patrons, all the customers are there without a mask on—mostly because they have a drink in hand. They’re walking around and there’s a lot of dancing, there’s a lot of close contact with lots and lots of people.” Ferrer called bars “higher-risk settings than restaurants.” Ferrer also noted bars have a long-established protocol checking IDs for underage drinkers making it easier to screen vaccination status.

The county’s mask wearing requirement in indoor public settings remained in place.

The vaccine mandate does not apply to the cities of Long Beach or Pasadena, each with its own health departments.

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