LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was asked Wednesday at a press conference why he took his mask off for that now infamous photo with Magic Johnson Sunday at the NFC Championship game at SoFi Stadium.
Garcetti pushed back any suggestion that he endangered anyone by briefly slipping off his mask at the game, while, by his account, holding his breath.
"I wore my mask the entire game. When people ask for a photograph, I hold my breath and I put it here and people can see that," Garcetti said holding his mask in his hand. "There is a zero percent chance of infection from that."
Garcetti was holding a mask in his hand while taking the picture with Johnson.
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Garcetti wasn't alone in facing criticism for shedding his mask last weekend, if even for a moment. Gov. Gavin Newsom and San Francisco Mayor London Breed also were photographed without masks at the game.
The three Democrats were accused of hypocrisy for lecturing residents about dutifully wearing masks in public, while the pictures from the game that circulated widely online suggested they set different rules for themselves.
With the 15,664 new cases reported Wednesday in L.A. County and 102 deaths, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer says transmission is just too high in the county to relax the mask mandate at this point for the Super Bowl. But that hasn't stopped the public from questioning the rule.
When asked why the SoFi mask requirement made sense, when millions of people have attended NFL games this year, including in places without strict mask rules, Ferrer didn't answer directly. She suggested risk for transmission remained high in large venues, and emphasized that determining where a person became infected can often be difficult, if not impossible.
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The same L.A. County COVID-19 protocols for mega-events will be followed at next Sunday's Super Bowl game, which includes wearing a mask while in your seat unless actively eating or drinking, and showing proof of vaccination to enter, or a negative test.
The NFL says they've designed their own outer perimeter for entry to make sure screenings are safe, efficient and actually happen, as some fans have said the checks at SoFi and enforcement of the mask mandate have been minimal.
The NFL will provide KN95 masks to every fan in attendance. On Tuesday, L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said individuals should be allowed to make their own decision about whether to mask up at the stadium.
"I'm not sure what motivated Supervisor Barger to make her public statement yesterday. As chairwoman of the board and the person who actually represents SoFi Stadium, I stand by the director of our department of public health and literally ever other public health official across the country, who acknowledges that mask wearing is an easy form of protection," said L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell.
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"The protocols include a mandatory mask requirement in the stadium for everyone 2 years and older regardless of their vaccination status, are required to wear a face covering in the stadium and the tailgate areas - except while actively eating and drinking. And that doesn't mean buy a bucket of popcorn and eat it for two hours. Actively eating and drinking - we are on to you. The staff is on hand to remind people to mask up," said Russ Simons with SoFi Stadium.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.