Just as the United States appears to have emerged from the worst spike in coronavirus cases that ravaged the country for months and peaked after Americans were inside for the winter vacation, health officials are concerned about another potential super-spreader date: the Super Bowl Sunday.
January was the country’s deadliest month to date in the pandemic, accounting for 20 percent or 95,246 of the more than 460,000 coronavirus deaths recorded in the US in the past 12 months. That’s more people than even the largest NFL stadium could fit into.
Experts fear football fans gathering in Tampa, Florida for the championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday or at guard parties across the country could hold back the emerging progress of recent weeks. Daily reports of new cases and deaths remain high but have decreased somewhat. The 7-day average of new case reports in the US fell to 125,804 on Friday, its lowest level since November 10. Reports of deaths, a tracking indicator because patients who die from Covid-19 generally do so weeks after infection, averaged 2,913 per day, the lowest rate since Jan 7.
The United States is administering an average of 1.3 million vaccine doses per day as the Biden administration speeds distribution before more contagious vaccine-elusive variants can dominate. The NFL has offered President Biden all 30 stadiums as bulk vaccination sites.
Officials like Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Mr. Biden’s chief medical officer for Covid-19, has warned Americans not to gather for Super Bowl parties with people from other households, especially in places without ideal ventilation.
“You are really putting yourself and your family at risk,” said Dr. Fauci on Friday on MSNBC.
“It’s the perfect setup to have a mini super-spreader event in your home,” he added. “Don’t do that now.”
Apr. 7, 2021, 3:13 p.m. ET
While health experts worry about a spike in cases after the game, some don’t expect anything as deadly as the post-holiday wave that peaked in January. That’s because Thanksgiving and Christmas tend to encourage more domestic travel than the Super Bowl, said Dr. Catherine Oldenburg, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of California at San Francisco.
Still, even political parties pose a threat, said Carl Bergstrom, professor of biology at the University of Washington.
“I think it’s a really great year to see it at home with your family and not go to Super Bowl parties like you normally would because we are just starting to get this under control in this country “said Dr. Bergstrom said.
Dr. Bergstrom said he was also concerned about the 20,000+ people expected to attend the game in person at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa – about a third of the stadium’s usual capacity.
“Every time 25,000 people scream and scream during a pandemic, there will be transmission,” said Dr. Bergstrom.
Public health experts fear that new, more contagious varieties, such as the one first identified in the UK and known as B.1.1.7, will soon become dominant and cause a deadly upswing this spring. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 187 cases of variant B.1.1.7 have been discovered in Florida, more than any other state.
Florida bars will be open during the game and some will advertise Super Bowl parties. Before the game, Tampa’s mask order was expanded to include outside areas where people could gather.
Super Bowl ticket holders haven’t been discouraged by the pandemic. Jeremiah Coleman, a Chiefs fan from Wichita, Kan., Said, “On my deathbed, this will probably be one of the best five days I can remember of my life, you know?”