L.A. indoor vaccine mandate brings San Diego pushback

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Los Angeles will next month require proof of vaccination to enter a wide range of businesses. That has a group of small business owners in San Diego concerned.

Owen Johnston just opened his own physical therapy business inside a Point Loma gym. He made the move after his last employer denied his Covid vaccine religious exemption and let him go.

“You can get a vax if that makes you comfortable,” he said. “You do not have to get a vax if that makes you comfortable.”

If he were in the city of Los Angeles, there’d be no choice. This week, the L.A. City Council voted to require proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, coffee shops, gyms, spas and salons, among other businesses. It will take effect in November.

On Friday, Johnston joined seven other San Diego business owners to say that wouldn’t fly here.

“We will never follow any mandate, we will never follow anything that is told what we can and can’t do with our company, our business, our bodies,” he said.

A spokesman for County Board Chair Nathan Fletcher said San Diego County currently has no plans to follow L.A. He noted higher local vaccination rates and that some businesses have already put in their own vaccine mandates on customers and employees.

“What they say in San Diego doesn’t matter anymore,” said Sara De Luca, who owns INVITA Cafe, with locations in Rancho Santa Fe and Carlsbad “They say one thing, they do another thing.”

De Luca said her cafes were hit hard by Covid restrictions, and that adding any more would take away from INVITA’s warm atmosphere.

“I’m not personally vaccinated, but I could care less if you were vaccinated or not,” De Luca said. “You do whatever you want. If you feel comfortable with a mask, wear a mask. Just I’m not going to impose my beliefs on you. You can do whatever you like. It’s a free country.”

As it stands, nearly 89 percent of San Diegans 12 and over have had at least one dose of the Covid vaccine. That compares to nearly 78 percent in Los Angeles County.