Top Los Angeles Official Calls On County To “Do Away With Blanket Covid Masking Policies” After Newsom Images Surface

One day after Governor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and were called out for posing for maskless photos inside SoFi Stadium, a Los Angeles County Supervisor today called for state and local health officials to reevaluate Covid mask mandates, saying it should be up to the individual to decide when to wear one.

“Let’s do away with blanket Covid masking policies — they don’t make a difference when they’re not consistently followed or enforced. We need to trust the public to make the best personal decisions for themselves based on their unique risks and circumstances,” Supervisor Kathryn Barger said in a statement.

In a Twitter post, Barger pointed to Sunday’s NFC Championship game at SoFi Stadium, noting there was inconsistent adherence to the mask-wearing requirement.

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“Not a lot of #COVID19 mask wearing @ yesterday’s #NFCChampionshipGame. Vaccines/negative test results were required & strong air circulation was in place. Some fans felt this was enough protection. I believe we need to trust the public to make personal masking decisions. Thoughts?”

Barger appended a poll below her tweet, the results of which were running 93% in favor of changing the rules and roughly 7% against.

Lakers legend Magic Johnson on Sunday night posted a series of photos on Twitter taken that day at SoFi Stadium with maskless officials and celebrities, including Garcetti, Newsom, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and actor Rob Lowe.

The photos sparked outrage from some critics who accused the officials of hypocrisy when the public is being told to follow state and county mask mandates. Los Angeles County requires all attendees to wear masks at outdoor mega-events, like football games at SoFi Stadium. The state’s mask mandate requires people to wear masks at indoor areas of outdoor mega-events.

Garcetti’s office told City News Service, “The mayor was wearing his mask during the game and removed it for a brief moment to take a few photos.”

Newsom similarly said on Monday that he was “very judicious” about wearing his mask at the game, and insisted he had his mask in his left hand when the photo with Johnson was taken. The photo does not show a mask in the governor’s left hand, though the image could have been flipped. He said he only took the mask off momentarily to take the photo.

“The rest of the time I wore it, as we all should,” said Newsom.

Footage shown on Fox during the game of Johnson and a man who appeared to be the governor, maskless as he approached the Lakers great, cast doubt on that assertion, as did a fan cam still posted online by CalMatters editor Emily Hoeven that shows a barefaced Newsom sitting in a stadium seat, no drink or food in sight.

Jessica Millan Patterson, chair of the state Republican Party, was unimpressed by the explanations, saying in a statement, “While they force California children to wear masks in school, Gavin Newsom and friends get to enjoy a mask-free night of football in a packed stadium. His blatant and insulting disregard for his own COVID rules is a crystal-clear sign that it’s time for his Draconian policies and state of emergency to go.”

The county’s mask mandate and other Covid guidelines are set by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, with guidance from the Board of Supervisors. Along with outdoor mega-events with more than 5,000 attendees, people are required to wear masks in all indoor public settings, venues, gatherings and businesses. The rules allow people to take off their masks when they are actively eating or drinking, are alone in a separate space, showering or swimming or receiving personal care services that require a mask to be removed.

Barger — the only Republican on the non-partisan Board of Supervisors and the member who questioned masking in restaurants and other public spaces most vociferously — said it’s time for masking mandates to be re-evaluated.

“Masking rules set by the state and county weren’t followed consistently by everyone at yesterday’s NFC Championship,” she said.

“Instead, we saw individuals choosing to mask up based on calculated personal risk. Modern stadiums like SoFi Stadium have strong air circulation and all attendees of the game were required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test. Some fans evidently felt this was enough to protect them against COVID- 19.”

Newsom on Monday reiterated his call for the public to wear masks, but he said in the coming weeks the state will announce its “endemic plan” on practices for the state to live with the virus longterm.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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