Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti responded to backlash on Wednesday after he was seen in a photograph unmasked at the SoFi Stadium during the NFC Conference Championship game between the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
In a press conference Garcetti claimed that he held his breath while the photo with NBA legend Magic Johnson was being taken, thereby mitigating any risk associated with taking the mask off. This is not per CDC guidelines.
"I wore my mask the entire game, and when people ask for a photograph, I hold my breath and I put it here and people can see that," Garcetti said, referring to his mask in his hand.
"There’s a zero percent chance of infection from that," he continued. "I put my mask right back on ... to make sure that there is no spread. And I think that we should all follow that advice until we're out of this period."
Garcetti wasn’t alone in the public’s criticisms. California Governor Gavin Newsom was also photographed with Johnson, also without a mask. San Fransisco Mayor London Breed was also seen without a mask.
"I was very judicious yesterday, very judicious, and you'll see the photo that I did take where Magic was kind enough, generous enough to ask me for a photograph. And in my left hand’s the mask and I took a photo. Rest of the time I wore [it], as we all should," said Newsom in a separate press conference.
The photos were taken with Johnson in a box suit at SoFi Stadium during Sunday’s game, according to the Daily Mail.
Just three days after being photographed bare faced, Garcetti joined other officials in a Wednesday press conference to urge Super Bowl attendees to strictly adhere to local COVID-19 safety protocols, which includes wearing a mask while not actively eating or drinking.
"I won't pull it down for two seconds anymore — that's easy," Garcetti said. "But to me, it is crystal clear that nobody has been endangered by that and I'm trying to model the good behavior of making sure we wear this (for the) entire game."
In the state of California, people are required to wear masks in all indoor public spaces and workplaces through February 15, regardless of vaccination status.
In Los Angeles County, residents are required to wear a mask in "all indoor public settings, venues, gatherings, and public and private businesses." Masks are also required at all outdoor mega events.
Los Angeles Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said that her office is continuously reviewing pandemic data, and while she didn't rule out the possibility that the county could drop or amend the mask rule, she indicated that this might be unlikely.
"Transmission is super high here. And we've got to get to lower rates before it makes sense to be taking off our masks," she said, according to the Daily Mail.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said on Monday that the blanket COVID-19 masking policies in the county should be reconsidered.
"They don't make a difference when they're not consistently followed or enforced," she said. "I strongly believe individuals should be allowed to make an informed choice about whether to mask up or not."
Fans attending the Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium will be required to wear masks at all times during the game unless they are actively eating or drinking, or face a $250 fine if they continue to go unmasked even after staff requests that it be put on. KN95 masks will also be distributed to fans.
Ferrer noted that fans will be consistently reminded to wear their masks at the event.
Super Bowl fans will also be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test result taken within 24 hours if rapid antigen test, or 48 hours if PCR. All attendees over the age of two will be required to show one of the two.