In a letter sent directly to the director of the Los Angeles County Public Health Department, Supervisor Kathryn Barger has asked health officials to revisit their masking mandates and policies to bring them in line with the state.
The move — if the health officials did follow the request by Barger — would create less strict guidelines for masking rules when it comes to outdoor areas for schools and mega events.
Mega events are defined by the L.A. County Department of Public Health as indoor events with more than 500 attendees and outdoor events with more than 5,000 attendees.
“This past weekend, we witnessed over 70,000 fans in attendance of the National Football Conference Championship Game at SoFi Stadium, with a vast majority not wearing masks,” said Barger in her letter. “I am heartened that your department has clarified that we have not observed COVID-19 spikes resulting from the games this season at that stadium.”
“We have messaged to the public that masks are one of our basic methods of protection against COVID-19,” Barger added. “However, we also know that the risk of outdoor transmission is significantly lower and the state’s masking mandates align with that proven and scientific reality.”
Barger then said it was her belief that the pandemic had reached a point where the masking requirements set by the county for outdoor events was interfering with the county’s goal of broader messaging for high-risk, indoor areas and getting the vaccine.
“As the Super Bowl approaches in less than two weeks and given that an even higher number of fans will arrive from outside our county and from other states, I fully expect we will see even lower masking compliance on Feb. 13,” Barger said. “This will again call into question why we have stricter county mandates in place that are neither followed nor enforced, causing more feelings of frustration for residents who have been subject to masking requirements more strictly enforced in other settings like schools, restaurants and retail.”
The letter, addressed to Barbara Ferrer, director of the Department of Public Health, asks for county health guidelines for these outdoor events to come into alignment with state guidelines.
Currently the county requires that masks be worn by everyone, 2 years of age and older, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status at all outdoor mega events. Masking is required outdoors on school campuses when social distancing is not possible, unless the students are eating and drinking.
The state of California requires masks to be worn only in all indoor public settings.
“As we near the two-year mark of this pandemic, it is imperative that we protect the public health and public trust of our communities, ensuring our guidelines are in line with public expectations and the level of risk in the community,” said Barger.