Super Bowl’s mask-free celebrities spark renewed call for rethinking LA County mandates – San Bernardino Sun

Social media blew up Sunday afternoon with images from Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. Getting almost as much attention as the cliffhanger of a game and the hip-hop legends who performed at halftime were scores of celebrities posing for the camera, many of them unmasked.

One by one the visuals kept coming, capturing such high-profile figures as Magic Johnson, Jay-Z, LeBron James and Jennifer Lopez enjoying the Los Angeles Rams victory over the Cincinnati Bengals mask free — even though all were given a free high-quality KN95 face-covering upon entry.

On Sunday, and for a few at least a few more days, the county’s pandemic-era public health order required attendees at “mega” events such at the NFL’s championship game, which drew more than 70,000 people to Inglewood’s posh new arena.


Fontana News Roomday spectacle came just days before the county’s public health department is expected to ease some of its mask requirements, prompted by the weakening of the omicron-variant-fueled winter surge, as reflected in the encouraging decline of coronavirus-linked hospitalizations in the region.

Under guidelines announced earlier this month, if local number of COVID-infected patients stays below 2,500 for seven consecutive days, the county will consider itself to be entering a “post-surge” phase and will lift its mask mandate for outdoor “mega-events” and outside at schools and childcare centers.

Monday marked the fifth straight day of sub-2,500 hospitalizations, with the number slipping to 2,054, keeping the county on pace to lift the restrictions by Wednesday. The county also reported 26 new COVID-19 deaths and 2,457 new cases.

But the county’s indoor masking requirement — which requires face coverings at indoor businesses and schools — will likely remain in effect at least until into late March, when officials say the county could enter “moderate” transmission territory, which requires the county to have a cumulative, seven-day new case rate of less than 50 per 100,000 residents. According to the CDC’s website, the county’s rate was about 459 per 100,000 as of Monday.

The rate has been steadily dropping, and Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said last week that at the current rate of decline, the county could reach the “moderate” category within a month.

Meanwhile, Sunday’s images of such familiar faces as Matt Damon, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi maskless at SoFi prompted a renewed post-Super Bowl full-court press from mask-mandate critics on Monday.

Ferrer continued to defend such rules.  “We are once again at a pivotal point in our recovery journey where we don’t have the luxury of ignoring our individual and collective responsibilities,” she said in a statement.

But the perceived hypocrisy and inconsistency in enforcing the mask order that was getting to people, especially parents, who have to send their kids to school with masks on for hours each day, said Ross Novie, founder of L.A. Uprising, a group organized against the COVID-10 masking and vaccine mandates.

Fans at SoFi Stadium for Super Bowl LVI in Inglewood, CA, Feb. 13, 2022. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily news/SCNG)

“At this point, we’re just bullying kids,” said Novie. “Rich folks can go to the game and not wear masks, and that’s fine. Just not the kids. They don’t have the money, they need to silently endure all these restrictions. We’ve gone from hypocrisy to complicity.”

Meanwhile, despite indications the state was on the verge of lifting its mask-wearing requirement on school campuses, California’s Health and Human Services secretary said Monday the requirement will remain in place for now, pending a Feb. 28 reassessment of COVID-19 case rates and other pandemic metrics.

Dr. Mark Ghaly said a lifting of the mandate is inevitable, saying it is just “a question of when.” He expressed confidence that the mandate would be lifted sometime after that Feb. 28 reassessment, barring another sudden spike in virus infection rates and hospitalizations.

“Parents should not hear that we aren’t making a move,” Ghaly said. “We are taking a little bit more time to consider the information, work with our partners across the state to make sure when the move is made that we are doing it successfully with communities empowered to continue to be safe.”

‘I told you so’

In January, after seeing many unmasked fans at the Rams-49ers NFC Championship Game at SoFi, county Supervisor Kathryn Barger called for a reevaluation of indoor masking rules at businesses and schools, citing inconsistent enforcement.

Then came Sunday. Barger watched anew, her concerns were unchanged.

“I thought, first of all, good for them having a great time and enjoying an incredibly beautiful day at SoFi Stadium. And second of all, I told you so,” Barger said, reflecting. “When people are going to a game like this, they don’t want to be in a nanny state.”

Barger said she will continue to press Ferrer, with hopes that her colleagues on the dais will join her. Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting could may rekindle the conversation.

“I think we need to give clarity and consistency to the people,” Barger said. “Because people are getting tired. To be a county surrounded by other counties that are aligned with the state makes absolutely no sense.”

On Monday, other local leaders echoed Barger.

Fans at SoFi Stadium for Super Bowl LVI in Inglewood, CA, Feb. 13, 2022. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily news/SCNG)

Whittier Mayor Joe Vinatieri wrote a letter to Supervisor Janice Hahn urging the county to align itself with the state to loosen indoor masking rules.

“The indoor mask mandate is detrimental in terms of communication among council members and members of the public,” he said. “We want to go back to normal as much as possible as soon as we can.”

For her part, Hahn joined Barger in urging the county to align with the state over the weekend.

“I think that L.A. County should fully align with the state on all of our public health orders,” she told constituents in her office’s Janice Journal newsletter. “It would be less confusing and easier for people to follow. That not only includes allowing kids at school to drop their masks when outdoors, but also following the state’s decision to drop the indoor mask mandate for vaccinated individuals on February 15th.”

County officials, meanwhile, appeared to stay its course on Monday — and reminded critics that the mask mandate wasn’t the only restriction aiming to protect Super Bowl attendees and folks at other large gatherings.

“We deeply appreciate SoFi Stadium and the NFL for making efforts to protect workers and those who attended the Super Bowl yesterday, which included requiring all attendees to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test prior to entry, providing KN95 masks on every seat, and educating attendees of the safety measures before and during the game,” read a statement from the L.A. County Public Health Department. “We appreciate how challenging it can be when there are that many people gathered together and excited to watch a game or show, and will continue to work with event operators and partners on the best ways to protect attendees and workers at these events.”

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