London mayor Breed slammed by health experts for going maskless in sci-fi club: ‘error in judgment’

Several public health experts criticized the Mayor of London Breed on Friday for footage of her singing and dancing without a mask in a concert hall this week – a violation of San Francisco’s indoor mask mandate.

The footage, captured by The Chronicle and others at the Black Cat jazz and dinner club in the Tenderloin on Wednesday, showed Breed singing and dancing without a mask while standing at his table. She and others were maskless even when they were not eating or drinking, which is not permitted by San Francisco health ordinances.

Although cases are declining and vaccination rates are increasing in San Francisco, a public health expert has called Breed’s behavior an “error in judgment” that could damage her credibility as she leads the city through the latest. phase of the coronavirus pandemic.

The images spread nationwide on Friday, with critics seeing an example of hypocrisy from a politician who promoted strong COVID-19 restrictions.

Tony’s Raphael Saadiq and D’Wayne Wiggins! Toni! Your! Surprise fans at the Black Cat in San Francisco on September 15, 2021. San Francisco Mayor London Breed was in attendance. Video: Mariecar Mendoza / The Chronicle

For others, however, the episode underscored the reality of the city’s current indoor mask law for bars, clubs, and restaurants: it’s hard to enforce and easy to ignore, of course. especially since the worst of the summer wave seems to have passed.

“Elected officials have a greater responsibility to model the behavior necessary to control the pandemic,” said John Swartzberg, infectious disease expert at UC Berkeley. “Anytime elected officials behave like this, it undermines the public’s trust in them and it results in people saying, ‘Well, if the mayor can do it, I can. “”

Jeff Cretan, spokesperson for the mayor, said Breed understands that following public health orders can be difficult, but asks people to do their best.

Cretan said the mayor was at a table with food and drinks and therefore followed instructions. But photos and videos show her unmasked standing, singing and dancing at the table and posing for photos with others.

Breed told NBC Bay Area on Friday that his “drink was sitting at the table. I got up and started dancing, because I could feel the spirit. And I wasn’t thinking of a mask. I thought I was having a good time, and in the process, I followed the sanitary instructions. “

According to the regional mandate announced in August, everyone must wear a mask inside businesses, unless they are actively eating or drinking. In addition, customers must show full proof of vaccination before entering bars, clubs, restaurants and gyms under city law.

“Masks can be removed,” city rules state, “by actively eating or drinking at events other than indoor dining, such as live shows and movies.”

A number of bar and club owners contacted by The Chronicle have dismissed the videos and photos of Breed and other patrons partying without masks as inconsequential as townspeople also throw away their masks for many hours. long periods of time when eating and drinking.

Some owners said the majority of their customers follow the rules, and others said it’s common for people to keep their masks on even when they’re not eating or drinking.

Supervisor Matt Haney, who was pictured without a mask at a separate event last week inside the Black Cat, said the city’s indoor mask tenure may be “farcical.”

Haney said he wears a mask whenever he walks around the club for drinks or using the restroom. But he said the rules “tend to be open to interpretation.”

“What is going on in indoor places where everyone is vaccinated right now is a great lack of clarity on what people are supposed to do and when,” he said. “If your meal is in front of you and you have a glass of water in front of you, do you have to put on and take off your mask with every bite?” It is not realistic and clear enough.

At the club on Wednesday, Breed told a reporter from The Chronicle that she often tests for the coronavirus and said: “At the end of the day, everyone who comes here has to show proof of vaccination. This reassures me a lot.

“I have been very careful, not only because I want to lead by example, but because I don’t want to have COVID. I also want to make sure I’m not someone who is passing COVID to other people, ”Breed said. “This whole pandemic has focused on the safety of people. “

A Chronicle reporter who spoke to Breed at The Black Cat occasionally wore a mask in the club but, like Breed, did not wear a mask during the interview.

“We reminded our reporters today that they must follow the mask policies of each jurisdiction in which they work,” said Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, editor of The Chronicle. “In our work, we hold others accountable for their behavior and we have a responsibility to follow the same rules. “

Most patrons of the Black Cat, which serves food and drink during its shows, were not wearing masks most of the time on Wednesday. The health order urges people to sit at a table or stand at a fixed counter while eating or drinking, as Breed seemed to be most of the time.

Even though San Francisco is currently seeing a lower number of cases than it did in early summer, Dr Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at UCSF, said the city, like the country, is still in dire straits. precarious position and that elected officials should be diligent in following the rules.

Hong said the science is clear: Being indoors without a mask, especially while singing, is one of the riskiest things people can do, even if they are fully vaccinated.

“We haven’t come down the mountain yet,” he said. “Even with immunization checks, collecting lots of noses and mouths from different households can be risky business. “

He said he didn’t expect the Breed footage to change the way many people act in San Francisco, where residents typically follow the rules. But he’s worried about giving people who are already period weary an excuse to ditch their masks.

Breed and his health department have passed some of the toughest health orders of any major US city throughout the pandemic. Experts attribute the city’s drop in case rates to its mask and vaccination mandates – one of the few cities in the country to have both – and its high vaccination rate.

As Breed continues to rule the city during the pandemic, she is also trying to jumpstart San Francisco’s economic recovery. The nightlife industry has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, and the mayor has often urged residents to dine and shop locally.

Breed spokesperson Cretan said the indoor mask warrant was a temporary measure to deal with the delta’s surge. He said it was ultimately up to the Department of Public Health to reverse the order.

The San Francisco Department of Public Health said, “Our intention is to encourage people to do their best to understand that every circumstance is unique.

“We will make the necessary adjustments based on science and data, and maintain a regional approach on COVID-19 mitigation strategies, to the extent possible,” the department said in a statement.

Black Cat owner Fritz Quattlebaum said in a statement that the club “takes Covid very seriously, as well as Covid city and state mandates and advice.”

He said Wednesday evening that patrons were seated throughout the musical performance, eating and drinking during the evening. But when the “two singers of the legendary Tony! Toni! Your! unexpectedly took the stage ”and performed,“ the crowd spontaneously erupted for a brief burst of excitement during the brief performance ”.

The mayor was praised for his leadership during the pandemic, as San Francisco has historically had one of the lowest case and death rates of any major city in the country.

But this isn’t the first time Breed has been called in due to COVID-19 restrictions. The mayor was criticized earlier in the pandemic for dining at the French Laundry in Yountville with a party of eight when state rules “strongly discouraged” social gatherings and limited them to three households.

She technically didn’t violate state rules, but the dinner was at odds with San Francisco’s stricter guideline at the time. Breed’s dinner came just one night after Governor Gavin Newsom’s French Laundry Dinner, which fueled the recall election that failed this week.

Arnab Mukherjea, associate professor of public health at Cal State East Bay, said Breed set a bad example.

He said if the mayor of San Francisco, “who arguably makes the best of the nine Bay Area counties, thinks it’s okay to do so because she’s determined she feels safe. , then this encourages others to make decisions based on the same criteria.

“From what I can see in this video, it looks to me like this would be a very dangerous gathering in terms of transmission potential,” he said.

George Rutherford, an infectious disease expert at UCSF, saw it differently. He said Breed’s behavior was similar to diners inside who legitimately remove their masks when eating and drinking.

As long as all clients are vaccinated, he said it was relatively safe.

“Vaccination is 99.9% protection. That’s what really matters, ”he said.

Ben Bleiman, founder of the San Francisco Bar Alliance, which represents nearly 500 bars and clubs in the city, called Breed’s images “nothingburger”.

He said the purpose of the indoor mask mandate was to reduce risks, not eliminate them completely, and that it was unrealistic to expect people to follow the rules 100% of the time.

“There is the letter of the law, and then there is the spirit of the law,” Bleiman said. “Following it exactly to a T may not be practical for most and it is very difficult to apply.”

San Francisco Chronicle Editor-in-Chief Aidin Vaziri contributed to this report.

Trisha Thadani and Elena Kadvany are the editors of the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected], [email protected] Twitter: @TrishaThadani, @ekadvany

About Nancy Owens

Nancy Owens

Check Also

City Commons work recognized with six Green Flag awards

Award-winning: Farthing Downs in Coulsdon and six other City Commons areas in and around Croydon …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *