Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to end its mandate for many indoor businesses and operators of large outdoor events to verify that customers have been vaccinated against COVID-19, joining a wave of big U.S. cities that have relaxed the restriction.

The measure by council President Nury Martinez received enough votes to pass as an urgent measure so it can take effect quickly after it receives the mayor’s signature and is published by the city clerk.

It was not immediately clear how soon the measure would reach the mayor's office, but the verification ordinance will not be enforced in the meantime because of the council vote, said Sophie Gilchrist, communications director for Martinez.

Businesses are still allowed to require vaccination verification for their clients.

The move came as COVID-19 infection cases have declined and states, counties and cities across the U.S. seek to return a sense of normalcy to people’s lives after two years of pandemic restrictions.

New York City recently did away with several of its COVID-19 mandates, including masking in public schools and vaccination requirements at restaurants, entertainment and cultural venues. Chicago also stopped requiring proof of vaccination to dine inside restaurants.

The Los Angeles vaccination verification mandate was imposed in November 2021 when the omicron variant of the virus was rising toward a surge in California.

Verification was required of everyone age 12 and older entering food and drink establishments, gyms and fitness centers, entertainment and recreation venues, spas, nail and hair salons, barbershops and city of Los Angeles facilities.

Businesses that violated the ordinance by failing to verify vaccination status were supposed to be subject to citations with steadily increasing fines, but city officials issued a small number of warnings instead.

The Los Angeles Times reported on March 9 that the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety had sent notices to just six businesses urging correction of violations, but that no citations or fines had been imposed.

COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths have declined significantly in Los Angeles County, but public health officials have reported an increasing percentage of cases of the more-infectious BA.2 subvariant.

Even though restrictions have been lifted, health officials still recommend precautions —including masking, vaccinations and boosters.

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