OPINION AND COMMENTARY — When NBA great Magic Johnson posted an Instagram picture with a smiling and maskless Gov. Gavin Newsom at an NFL playoff game on Sunday, people were justified to be upset and confused.
City of Los Angeles COVID protocols require wearing masks while indoors or outdoors at “mega events,” unless while actively eating or drinking. Those rules apply at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, where the Los Angeles Rams (unfortunately) defeated the 49ers in the NFC Championship game.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and San Francisco Mayor London Breed were also seen maskless and posing with Johnson. These preening images provided easy fodder for those irresponsible voices who opposed needed mask mandates and, in some cases, COVID vaccines as well.
The photos of prominent California Democrats mugging for the cameras with Johnson symbolized the Newsom administration’s inconsistent approach to the pandemic, and the type of rule-breaking that has allowed this saga to unnecessarily drag on. COVID fatigue has never been greater, but establishing rules and breaking them repeatedly erodes public health.
Newsom has done this before, most notably during the infamous French Laundry incident, his maskless 2020 dinner at an expensive Napa Valley bistro that inspired a wasteful election to recall the governor.
Still, Newsom said at a Monday press conference that he did follow the rules.
“I was very judicious yesterday, very judicious, and you’ll see in the photo … in my left hand is the mask,” he told reporters. “The rest of the time I wore it, as we all should … and I encourage everybody else to do so.”
In the photo Johnson shared on Twitter, Newsom’s left hand does not have a mask in it and his right hand isn’t visible. Broadcast footage also contradicts his version of events.
We get no pleasure from wagging an accusatory finger at Newsom over this. There’s already too much sanctimony and not enough clarity and consistency as to how California should best combat COVID. But serving in the state’s highest office comes with a higher standard, one Newsom has undermined on multiple occasions while much of California endures relentless waves of infection.
If California requires 6 million school kids to wear a mask for eight hours, or if health care workers must wear them for 24-hour shifts, then surely Newsom can wear one to pose for pictures with celebrities. One expensive recall election and two-plus years of pandemic restrictions later, he still hasn’t figured that out.
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