September 26, 2022


Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Super Bowl 2021 could become COVID ‘superspreader’ event

The NFL’s biggest game presents a huge risk of coronavirus transmission if large numbers of residents gather to watch and celebrate the Super Bowl with other households, Los Angeles County health officials warned this week.

Although the county, like California as a whole, is seeing promising declines in coronavirus cases and COVID-19 hospitalizations following a devastating weeks-long surge, that progress remains precarious — and could easily be eroded, they said, if too many Angelenos throw caution to the wind when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs take the field Feb. 7.

“It will be tragic if the Super Bowl becomes a super-spreader of coronavirus,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday.

County health officials have long pointed to gatherings held among households as a primary driver of coronavirus transmission. The risk is heightened in crowded indoor settings; when people aren’t wearing masks; and when they’re chanting, singing or shouting — as doing so can propel the respiratory aerosols and droplets that carry the virus even greater distances.

That’s why health officials were alarmed by the celebrations, both impromptu and planned, held to mark the championship triumphs in the fall of the Lakers and Dodgers, and why a typically huge social event such as the Super Bowl is cause for concern.

An uptick in transmission could slow or halt the county’s progress toward wider reopenings or refuel the now-stalled surge that’s resulted in more than 8,800 reported COVID-19 deaths countywide since Nov. 1.

“Every person and every business must continue to take every precaution every day to prevent transmission,” Ferrer said. “It’s really up to us whether we can sustain these reopenings without jeopardizing each other’s health and our ability to get more schools to reopen.”

This year, sports fans should “play it safe,” Ferrer said. “Don’t organize a party at home. Don’t go to a Super Bowl party.”

For the first time in two months, L.A. County this week officially allowed the resumption of private gatherings, so long as they’re held outdoors, attended by members of no more than three households and with no more than 15 people.

But the relaxation of the ban on get-togethers, Ferrer said, “is meant to only allow for a household to form a small, stable social group with one or two other households, so that you can get together occasionally — always outdoors, always keeping six feet of distance and always with no more than 15 people.”

“It just doesn’t work,” she added, “if every night people gather with a different group of folks to have small parties.”

An increase in transmission, officials warn, will kick off a domino effect. More people being infected means more people will be hospitalized with COVID-19 in the weeks ahead. Some of those people will eventually require treatment in an intensive care unit, and some of them will die from the disease.

“We cannot let this happen,” said Dr. Christina Ghaly, L.A. County’s director of health services. “We can’t let the current high number of COVID patients still in the hospital become normal to us. It is simply not sustainable.”

A little more than 6,000 coronavirus-positive Angelenos were hospitalized countywide Tuesday, according to the latest available state data. During the height of a surge seen over the summer, that number peaked at just above 2,200.

“If you care about our children, if you care about our small businesses, we need you to follow the public health directives all of the time,” Ferrer said, such as wearing masks in public, practicing physical distancing and not hosting crowded gatherings.

“Each of us needs to make very careful choices about what we do. Please don’t resume socializing with lots of people not in your household.”