Officials point out mask rules at Super Bowl LVI

NFL and SoFi Stadium officials joined local leaders in reiterating that masks will be required for Super Bowl fans in Inglewood to help protect against Omicron transmission.

The mask requirement at outdoor stadiums, an order issued in LA County last August, was criticized as unnecessary this week by board member Kathryn Barger, who represents a northern part of the county, after the publication of photos of many fans without masks. in their place during Sunday’s Rams game.

But at a press conference on Wednesday, several local elected officials backed the mask mandate, including Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr. and LA County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, whose district includes SoFi Stadium. Guests at the Feb. 13 game will also have to show proof they have been vaccinated or recently tested negative for the coronavirus before entry, a requirement that has been in place for major outdoor events in the county since October.

Although the rates of coronavirus cases are decreasing, they remain high. LA County is averaging around 16,000 new coronavirus cases per day – down from Omicron’s peak of 44,000 cases per day in January – but still on par with the worst time of the devastating wave of coronavirus. winter, according to data compiled by The Times. Death rates remain at the highest levels for more than 10 months, averaging around 60 to 70 COVID-19 deaths per day.

And while hospitalizations for COVID-19 are declining, hospitals in Southern California remain under pressure, health officials said.

“Masking is a modest requirement that works,” said Mitchell, chairman of the LA County Board of Supervisors. “Masking does not affect a business’ bottom line, and it certainly won’t affect attendance or our enjoyment of the game. LA County will stay the course. As it does, Los Angeles County will develop and implement thoughtful, medically informed plans to relax masking and other COVID-19 requirements when the wave is over.

While the Omicron push first appeared in affluent communities, the highest coronavirus case rates have since been documented in low-income communities of color, such as nearby South Los Angeles.

Mitchell said wearing masks at the game will help “keep us and our community of other stadium attendees safe.” Keeping people safe from COVID-19 is an important issue, she said, noting that the nearby Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital is under such stress that patients have to be seen in tents. because of the disproportionate number of people in this community – working people, black and brown, poor – who have contracted this virus.

According to county requirements, fans must wear masks whether or not they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. The mandate applies at all times unless someone is eating or drinking, which “refers to the limited time during which the mask may be briefly removed to eat or drink, after which it must be immediately put back on”.

Spectators will be provided with KN95 masks, and there will be signage and staff members on hand to remind people of the rules.

Given the enormity of the event, however, some have wondered how the county or the NFL can reasonably expect to enforce certain health measures. Scenes from last Sunday – when throngs of unmasked fans watched the LA Rams defeat the San Francisco 49ers to clinch their ticket to the championship – further stoked those speculations, as did the emergence of images showing political figures posing for photos without a face covering while at the Game.

Anyone who has tuned in to a Rams home game this season has likely noticed mask-wearing in the stands was erratic, despite county requirements, although some fans say the order is best enforced at concessions for food and the drinks.

While these images may paint an unflattering picture, LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer noted that there was stringent compliance with health orders throughout the county — including at businesses where masks are required.

I know there seems to be a general disregard for public health measures, but every bit of data we have shows that in fact in most places most people are doing what they must,” she said.

“What we’re trying to accomplish here,” she added, “is to get people to understand why it’s important to wear a mask and to get businesses to take responsibility for protecting people. workers, employees and customers”.

Still, officials have acknowledged that individual choices, rather than heavy-handed enforcement, will play a part in how many people comply with the rules.

“It’s all about our personal responsibility to do the right thing and what we’re asked to do,” said Russ Simons, senior facilities advisor for SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park. “And it’s not a game of gotcha, ‘Oh, I ran away, I have to go from here to there without my mask.’ It’s a matter of personal responsibility and commitment to keeping everyone safe.

That commitment, officials said, applies not just to individual customers, but to those around them, including stadium workers.

Checking vaccination and testing status seems like the easiest hill to climb. A special entry system put in place for the game will incorporate this requirement.

“We’ve built not just the queues, we’ve built a verification area where we’ll run this room, then our security checkpoints, then our ticket checkpoint,” said Jon Barker, operations manager. of NFL live events. “So that really gives us the luxury of being able to design it specifically to be able to check vaccination status as people come by.”

Ferrer was also asked about the safety of hosting the Super Bowl. At a town hall meeting last week, she said safety measures such as masks and vaccination or testing requirements add a level of safety while allowing the county to largely return to normal life. .

“LA County has been open for months. And we are a place of destination: we have hundreds of thousands of people who come to LA every day from all over the world to enjoy all that LA has to offer,” Ferrer said last week. “But we also expect people to come here…they have to follow public health safety requirements when they’re here.”

“People often ask us: what is life like with COVID? said Ferrier. “That’s what we’re doing right now – we’re living with COVID. We’re doing our best to add layers of protection so a lot of what we love to do is possible – as long as we add layers of protection.

Butts, the mayor of Inglewood, said: “This is going to be one of the safest and most glamorous Super Bowls in Super Bowl history. … So we want everyone to wear your mask. Do -get vaccinated if you want. And come and enjoy the new town of Inglewood,” Butts said.

Because of how easily the still-dominant Omicron variant has been shown to spread, health officials say wearing masks, especially those that fit well and are of higher quality, provides a vital layer of protection in the crowded situations.

This is especially the case in contexts where people are shouting, chanting, or singing, activities that go without saying with an in-game title.

While any mask is better than none, health officials and experts have said residents should upgrade looser or cloth masks to N95, KN95 or KF94 masks. Alternatively, placing a cloth mask over a surgical mask would also provide more protection than a surgical mask alone.

Los Angeles Times

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