As the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals prepare to face off at Super Bowl LVI this Sunday, health officials around the country are urging caution and suggesting ways to celebrate the event safely amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
With the kickoff for Super Bowl LVI just two days away, excitement surrounding the event has overshadowed the fact that the nation is still in a pandemic—and that people still need to take safety precautions to protect ourselves and others against Covid-19, according to experts.
"Because Covid-19 and the omicron variant still pose a threat to public health across the Southland, many people may be tempted to let their guard down as they gather to enjoy the game and social interaction," said Priscilla Hanudel, an emergency medicine specialist with Kaiser Permanente Southern California. "However, that could be a costly mistake, because the coronavirus still poses a significant threat to our health, and we need to protect ourselves."
To celebrate the Super Bowl safely this year, health experts around the country have suggested taking these five steps:
1. Limit the size of your gathering
For people who plan to host a Super Bowl celebration, Hanudel recommends limiting the number of guests to 10 or fewer.
2. Host an outdoor celebration
For fans attending the game in southern California, National Weather Service meteorologist David Sweet predicts that this could be one of the hottest Super Bowl Sundays ever, with temperatures "somewhere in the mid 80s."
Accordingly, KCRW's Events team recommended taking advantage of the warmer weather and hosting an outdoor party.
For those who want to separate their guests as much as possible, Marley Majcher, CEO of The Party Goddess! recommends using clear, pop-up tents for an added layer of protection. "They could have their own little bubble, still be part of the party and see what's going on," Majcher said.
3. Serve food in individual containers
Typically, Super Bowl parties have a large buffet-style spread of foods such as pizza, wings, and chips.
"When you start thinking of all the different ways that you could create something that people could pick up, it opens up the doors a lot more," Majcher said.
Instead, Majcher suggested serving food in separate containers. In particular, she suggests hosts place individual sandwiches and salads in a jar or waffle cone, which keeps food contained and allows guests to quickly grab a snack with minimal contact.
In addition, KCRW recommends having guests label their own cups with markers to prevent any accidental swapping.
4. Ask guests to wear masks indoors
Even though many states are reversing indoor mask requirements, it is still a good idea to ask guests to wear a mask indoors, especially if they aren't vaccinated, said Shira Shafir, associate professor of epidemiology and community health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
"KN94, KN95, and N95 masks are the best options when it comes to preventing the transmission of Covid," Shafir said.
Similarly, for those hosting an outdoor party but allowing guests to access indoor bathrooms, experts recommended asking guests to mask up when they go inside.
5. Test guests before the party
"If everyone who is at the party is vaccinated—and boosted—and gets a negative rapid test result on the day of the Super Bowl party, then there's no need for masking indoors," Shafir said.
Regardless, she reminded hosts to be careful. "Anyone who is infected with [o]micron can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don't have symptoms. Any time multiple households gather together, especially indoors, there is a risk of infection," Shafir said"
Separately, Sarah Moyer, Louisville's chief health strategist, urged people to stay home if they feel sick. "If you have any symptoms, do not risk it; stay home. Second, try to make sure all your guests are up to date on their vaccination, including the booster. And then, either make sure they are tested before they come or are wearing a mask. We like to at least have two of those things happening," Moyer said.
Ultimately, "[w]e all want to enjoy the game, but we can do so in a way that is both fun and safe by taking precautions that better protect our health—and the health of others—during the pandemic," Hanudel said. (Los Cerritos News, 2/7; WDRB, 2/8; Jeong/Nguyen, KCRW, 2/9; Carbone, WCPO, 2/9)
For two years, the novel coronavirus has tested health care leaders. Staff are burned out, patients are confused, vaccination rates have stalled, and the future remains uncertain. As the highly transmissible omicron variant spreads among both vaccinated and unvaccinated groups, leaders must address its impact on capacity, staffing, and public health.
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