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Will Super Bowl Fans Get A Penalty For Not Wearing A Mask?

A profile shot shows the Rams mascot (yes, a Ram with horns) wearing a face mask with the L.A. team's logo.
L.A. County required face coverings at mega events regardless of an attendee's vaccination status. It was clear that was widely flouted at Sunday's NFC Champiomship game, raising questions about what will happen at the Super Bowl later this month.
(Patrick T. Fallon
AFP via Getty Images)
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Los Angeles health officials doubled down on the county’s mask mandate ahead of the Feb. 13 Super Bowl at a press conference Wednesday at SoFi Stadium. Flanked by NFL representatives, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer defended the current rules.

“Right now we have an extraordinarily high rate of transmission. So this is the time to keep our masks on,” she said. ”You can still get infected in a large crowd. Putting on this layer is a critically important way to continue to stay focused on getting community transmission down.”

Right now we have an extraordinarily high rate of transmission. So this is the time to keep our masks on.
— Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County Public Health Director

In L.A. County, face coverings are required at mega events such as the Super Bowl regardless of an attendee's vaccination status, unless people are eating or drinking. But images from last weekend’s Rams-49ers game at SoFi showed thousands of fans and many prominent Californians, including Governor Gavin Newsom and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, flouting the rules. Both politicians were photographed maskless with Magic Johnson.

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Garcetti said he only removed his mask for photos, and held his breath while they were being taken, but added he wouldn’t remove his mask at all in the future.

“What we need to focus on is continuing to get people vaccinated,” the mayor said. “Make sure that when people are in closed spaces, or for long periods of time … [and] not adhering to the advice, that’s when spread happens. So let's focus on what's real.”

But none of the officials at the press conference said there would be ramifications for fans who don't keep their mask on.

"We issue hardly any citations anywhere," Ferrer said. "That's not what we're trying to accomplish here. What we're trying to accomplish is to get people to understand why it's important to wear a mask."

County health officials are facing pressure to ease the indoor mask mandate from Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who released a statement Monday saying, in part, “I strongly believe individuals should be allowed to make an informed choice about whether to mask up or not. I hope state and local health leaders take this into consideration and re-evaluate indoor and school masking mandates now.”

Supervisor Holly Mitchell countered her colleague at the press conference.

“Masking is a modest requirement that works,” she said. “Masking doesn't affect a business's bottom line, and it certainly will not affect the attendance or our enjoyment of the game.”

Ferrer cited data the health department released last week showing that inspectors found most businesses in the county are complying with masking rules. “I know it looks like there's just rampant disregard for public health measures,” she said. “But every piece of data we have shows that actually, in most places, most people are doing the right thing.”

COVID-19 Safety At The Game

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Red 49er jerseys seems to more plentiful than the Rams hometown blue in this upper deck show of the crowd and field.
The crowd as the NFC Championship Game began between the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers at SoFi Stadium on Jan. 30.
(Meg Oliphant
Getty Images)

To encourage mask wearing at the big game, KN95 masks will be placed on all the seats and fans will be reminded to keep them on, said Jon Barker, head of NFL live event operations.

“Our team will have ambassadors throughout every single level … reminding people to raise their mask. We will have mask reminders up on the video boards and every credentialed member of staff that's going to be working at the Super Bowl as well is also provided a KN95 mask,” Barker said. “It's a challenge. It's a very large building. But we are prepared and ready to go.”

Super Bowl ticket holders will need to show proof of full vaccination or proof of a recent negative test, and adults will also need a photo ID.

Rapid antigen test kits and a COVID-19 vaccine clinic will be available at the Los Angeles Convention Center this weekend and from Feb. 10-12. Fans who receive any dose of the vaccine this weekend at that clinic will receive a free ticket to the Super Bowl Experience at the Convention Center.

“People attending the Super Bowl Experience will be able to take a free rapid antigen test when they get to the event and then take home a free over-the-counter test kit to use for gathering with others on Super Bowl Sunday,” Ferrer said.

What questions do you have about the pandemic and health care?
Jackie Fortiér helps Southern Californians understand the pandemic by identifying what's working and what's not in our health response.

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