Our View | Barger a Voice of Reason on Masks

Our View

By The Signal Editorial Board

It takes courage to stand up for something when you are outnumbered — and we’ve praised county Supervisor Kathryn Barger on several past occasions for doing just that.

She did it again this week.

Barger, standing as the lone voice of reason on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, called on the county Public Health Department to inject a little common sense into its mask policies, and lift the mandate for mask-wearing at large outdoor events and outdoor areas at schools.

Such a change would bring L.A. County in line with policies safely enacted elsewhere, and in fact with the state of California’s policy.

“We have messaged to the public that masks are one of our basic methods of protection against COVID-19,” Barger wrote in a letter to Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “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.”  

To further support her case, Barger wrote: “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. 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.”  

Barger is right. And, in some corners, she will be willfully misunderstood.

In today’s environment, anyone who advocates the loosening of health protocols or, heaven forbid, opposes vaccine mandates, is branded as an anti-science, anti-vax wacko.

While it’s true that there ARE, indeed, anti-science, anti-vax wackos in our midst, advocating for a measure of reason in mask mandates — and opposing government imposition of mandatory vaccination — does not render one a wacko.

For example: This editorial board is 100% vaccinated and boosted, because we believe it’s the right decision for our personal health. We wear masks in indoor settings where it makes sense to do so — again, because that seems, to us, to be the smart and prudent thing to do.

But we still believe in personal choice. If you don’t feel comfortable getting the jab, you should neither be required nor vax-shamed into getting it. It should be your call and, frankly, no one else’s business.

Similarly, with mask wearing, it seems L.A. County’s outdoor requirements are a little over the top as it relates to outdoor settings, particularly since compliance is low anyway.

The mask rules were Barger’s focus this week, and she — yet again, alone among the county supervisors — raised good points. 

Barger advocates an easing of the rules as they apply to outdoor mega events — those with more than 5,000 attendees.

“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.” 

Currently the county requires that masks be worn by everyone 2 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 — which, considering what we know and what the scientists are telling us all, seems to make a lot more sense.

“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.  

There she goes again. Making sense. 

If only more of our county’s leaders shared that trait.

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