Many a politician has been caught ignoring their own guidance on proper COVID hygiene, including London Breed herself.
But I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one caught breaking the rules this brazenly.
Typically when a public figure flouts social distancing or mask guidance, it’s to have dinner with friends. Think Gavin Newsom at the French Laundry or Muriel Bowser at a wedding reception. Rarely do you catch an official just cutting loose, seemingly without a care in the world being in a crowded indoor space in the middle of a pandemic.
The photos that emerged of Breed last night were bad but could have been spun as having been taken at a moment when she had her mask off because she was eating or drinking:
San Francisco Mayor @LondonBreed partied maskless indoors with Black Lives Matter activists.
— Matthew Foldi (@MatthewFoldi) September 17, 2021
But what are we to make of this clip? That’s her in the back dancing under the lamp, no? Just spittin’ those germs every which way as she croons along with the band:
— Mariecar Mendoza (@SFMarMendoza) September 16, 2021
Scientists have debated every nuance of the coronavirus, including modes of transmission, since last March. But one thing they’ve been consistent about since discovering that it was airborne is that you want to avoid projecting your voice indoors by singing or shouting. Because when you exert your throat and lungs to project sound, you’ll end up projecting more than that.
It was Breed’s terrible luck that a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle happened to be at the same club as her last night. The reporter spoke to her afterward:
Breed — who had a table of drinks in front of her and was often holding one — spent the night dancing, singing along and posing for photographs without a face covering.
Breed emphasized, however, that she tests for COVID-19 often and said “at the end of the day, everyone who comes in here has to show proof of vaccination. That gives me a lot of reassurance.”
“I’ve been very careful, not just because I want to set an example but because I don’t want to get COVID. I also want to make sure that I’m not someone transmitting COVID to other people,” she said. “This entire pandemic has been focused on keeping people safe.”
That’s super, and we could have a rousing debate about whether in the age of Delta a roomful of fully vaccinated people should feel confident about singing together maskless.
But her policy leaves no room for it. You’re not required to wear a mask unless you and those around you are vaccinated, you’re required to wear a mask, period.
In early August, she emphasized the need for the city to bring back its indoor mask mandate.
“We don’t want to shut down this city or this country down any longer than we have to. Our economy and our livelihood, and our kids going back to school, and everything in between depends on it,” she said.
In a news release about the mandate, the mayor’s office clearly spelled out the rules, stating, “The orders require all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, to wear face coverings when indoors in public settings, with limited exceptions.”
Her office tried to clean up her mess last night after the footage of her went viral: “The mayor was excited to be out and had an incredible night at the Black Cat, and wants to support small businesses. She was with friends at her table, not wearing a mask while eating and drinking and enjoying herself. She knows health orders are hard and asks everyone to do their best to follow them.”
It’s true, you’re permitted to remove your mask indoors under Breed’s order if you’re “actively” eating or drinking. But she wasn’t actively eating or drinking the entire night. She was actively singing.
And if “actively drinking” includes “taking a sip of a cocktail once every 10 minutes” then the mask mandate is effectively toothless. Anyone at a restaurant, bar, or nightclub could spend hours there with their masks off and claim that they’re “actively” eating and drinking.
Exit question: Given that 70 percent of the San Francisco metro area is fully vaccinated and the transmission rate is well below 1.0, is it maybe time to lift the mask mandate? If the high rate of vaccination among clubgoers last night was enough to “reassure” her to remove her mask, why doesn’t that logic work citywide?