City News Service

After many fans at the NFC Championship Game at SoFi Stadium were seen ignoring the mask-wearing requirement, Los Angeles County’s public health director, elected officials and NFL representatives preached a message of COVID safety and personal responsibility Wednesday for those attending the Super Bowl and other affiliated events.

As was the case for all games at SoFi this year, fans at the Feb. 13 Super Bowl will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a recent negative test, and all attendees over 2 years old must wear masks during the game unless “actively” eating or drinking, according to Russ Simons, senior vice president for campus and facility operations for SoFi Stadium.

“That doesn’t mean you buy a bucket of popcorn and eat it for two hours. Actively eating and drinking,” he reiterated. “We’re on to you.”

The NFL will provide KN95 masks to all workers and fans during the game, and people who attend the Super Bowl Experience at the Los Angeles Convention Center will receive take-home COVID-19 tests — in hopes they will use them before watching the Super Bowl at the stadium or at a gathering.

John Barker, head of live event operations and production for the NFL, said the league has been preparing for Super Bowls during COVID-19 for nearly two years, and it is “extremely confident in the plans we have in place.”

Many of the measures have been in effect at SoFi Stadium throughout the season, including:

— electrostatic spraying to disinfect horizontal surfaces and common touch points;

— UVC lighting to sanitize the field; and

— touchless hand sanitizer stations, as well as touchless soap, water and towel dispensers in the restrooms.

“There’s been an extraordinary level of cooperation between everyone here, and we’re all laser focused on a shared commitment to the public health safety measures at NFL-sponsored events over the next 10 days, including the Super Bowl Experience at the L.A. Convention Center, and events at YouTube Theater, Arena and SoFi Stadium,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

For people attending Super Bowl parties and gatherings to watch the game, Ferrer said, “Outside (is) always better than inside, fewer people (are) always better than large crowds.”

To encourage people to get vaccinated during Super Bowl events, the Super Bowl Experience at the L.A. Convention Center will offer vaccinations and booster shots to anyone eligible, and people who get a dose of a vaccine will be offered free entry. Children who get vaccinated at the event will get a fast pass.

“This is a great chance to get to the front of the line. We want you to have an amazing experience,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

Garcetti was one of many people seen at the NFC Championship Sunday without a mask, but the mayor insists he only took it off briefly to take a photo with Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and that he held his breath during the photo as a precaution. He denied flouting health regulations, insisting he wore his mask throughout the game.

He and Inglewood Mayor James Butts both highlighted the need for people to exercise personal responsibility and follow safety rules.

Following Sunday’s game, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger called for a reevaluation of the COVID-19 mask mandate, saying such rules “don’t make a difference when they’re not consistently followed or enforced.”

Ferrer responded on Wednesday that the department would reevaluate when COVID-19 transmission in the county goes below the “substantial” or “high” classification.

“We’re constantly looking at the data and trying to figure out what responses make the most sense. You know, we’re still in the surge, I think we reported over 15,000 new cases today, that’s still one of the highest numbers of new cases,” Ferrer said.

The department on Wednesday reported 15,664 new cases and 102 new deaths.

County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, who currently chairs the board, was more blunt, saying the county “will stay the course” and maintain its mask mandate. She said the county will develop “medically informed plans to relax masking requirements when the surge is over. L.A. County’s transmission is still high, so now is not the time to let down our guard.”

She also insisted that mask-wearing is a “modest requirement” that “will not affect the attendance or our enjoyment of the game.”

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