California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, pulled his children from a summer basketball camp where masks were optional, a violation of state policy. The incident comes as an embattled Newsom faces a recall, backed by critics of the governor’s pandemic restrictions.
Newsom's office confirmed that two of his four children would not return to the camp after at least one was pictured without a mask, in the latest backlash against Newsom, who has previously strayed from statewide guidance during the coronavirus pandemic. The state requires everyone in youth settings to wear masks because children under 12 are not eligible for authorized vaccines.
"The Newsoms were concerned to see unvaccinated children unmasked indoors at a camp their children began attending [Monday] and after seeing this, removed the kids from the camp," the governor's spokeswoman Erin Mellon said a statement.
Mellon said the family missed emails from the camp that it would not enforce masking guidance. A Facebook post from the camp in April said masks were required.
But Reopen California Schools, a group that's advocated for fully reopening schools and removing Newsom from office in a special election in September, contends Newsom, by allowing his children to attend the camp, violated his own state's policy. It publicly verified photos posted by the camp including one of Newsom's children. The group also shared screenshots of at least one email with a required waiver form attached and a logistics page for parents specifying masks were not required.
Mellon told The Washington Post that a hard copy waiver was signed separately from the email.
A parent of a camper shared an additional email with The Post that echoed masks were optional. The parent, speaking on the condition of anonymity to protect her privacy, said: "True to what the email said, that masks would be optional, most of the people there at the camp - the children, the parents dropping off, people both at the facility itself and the camp - were not wearing masks."
The camp did not respond to requests for comment from The Post.
Masking is required in schools and masks regardless of vaccination status. Amid spiking coronavirus infections and hospitalizations as the highly contagious delta variant sweeps the country with widely varying vaccination rates, California has experienced a rise in new daily cases in July, the largest average since February.
On Wednesday, the state's public health agency recommended all vaccinated people wear masks indoors, following the lead of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Reopen California Schools has sued the state over its school mask mandate.
"Why can his kid be maskless, but not ours?" tweeted the group, which is led by Jonathan Zachreson, a parent who said he voted for Newsom in 2018 but now supports Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, who is running in the recall.
Zachreson told The Post that Newsom is "hypocritical" for sending his children to a camp where masking is not enforced, in contrast to his administration's policy.
He compared the decision to Newsom sending his children to a private school offering in-person instruction while most public school students were remote for most of the school year. At the time, the governor told CNN he's "been living through Zoom school."
Newsom also faced flak after a dinner with lobbyists at Napa's famed French Laundry restaurant in November, at a time when he appealed to Californians to avoid gatherings and wear masks.
“I made a bad mistake,” Newsom later told reporters. “Instead of sitting down, I should have stood up and walked back out to my car.”