Health Officials Plead: Don't Let Super Bowl Become Superspreader Event

Written by on February 7, 2021

Kansas Metropolis Chiefs superfan Ty Rowton hugged strangers within the streets of Miami final yr after watching his staff win the Tremendous Bowl after which joined a whole bunch of 1000’s of followers again residence at a victory parade, pondering little of a mysterious virus that his buddies had been starting to speak about.

The championship looks as if a lifetime in the past. Now the Chiefs are getting ready to play within the Tremendous Bowl once more, and the virus has morphed right into a once-in-a-century pandemic that has well being officers on edge as followers congregate at events and bars for the sport.

The nation’s prime well being officers sounded the alarm this week in regards to the Tremendous Bowl being a possible superspreader occasion, they usually urged individuals to collect with mates over Zoom, not in crowds.

“I’m nervous about Tremendous Bowl Sunday, fairly actually. Individuals collect, they watch video games collectively. We’ve seen outbreaks already from soccer events,” stated Rochelle Walensky, head of the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention. “So I actually do assume that we have to watch this and watch out.”

The Tremendous Bowl comes because the nation sees a dramatic drop in new virus instances — an indication that the an infection spike from vacation gatherings is easing. The virus has killed greater than 459,000 individuals within the U.S., however the seven-day rolling common for each day new instances went from 180,489 as of Jan. 22 to 125,854 as of Friday, in line with knowledge from Johns Hopkins College.

People wait in line for an exhibit at the NFL Experience Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. The city is hosting Sunday's

Individuals wait in line for an exhibit on the NFL Expertise Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. Town is internet hosting Sunday’s Tremendous Bowl soccer recreation between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs. (AP Photograph/Charlie Riedel)

Well being officers worry the sport might seed new instances at precisely the mistaken time. Simply this week, the brand new coronavirus pressure that unfold rapidly in the UK was confirmed in Kansas after turning up in a number of different states. Different extremely contagious variants even have scientists nervous. States are in a race to vaccinate earlier than the newcomers change into widespread and extra strains emerge.

After an extended yr of shutdowns, it stays to be seen whether or not Individuals will heed the warnings for an occasion that was watched by greater than 100 million individuals final yr. The truth that it’s Tom Brady in search of his seventh Tremendous Bowl victory in opposition to Kansas Metropolis’s star quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, solely provides to the intrigue surrounding the sport.

Rowton, who goes to video games carrying an arrowhead on his head and a cape signed by gamers, gained’t be hugging strangers this yr. However he gained’t precisely be following the recommendation of well being officers both: He plans to eat barbecue and watch the sport in a good friend’s basement “man cave.” He will likely be unmasked with about 10 different followers.

“I’ve misplaced much more individuals to medicine this yr who’ve relapsed, so for me it’s a type of the place I can’t stay in worry as a result of if I do this, I’ll most likely relapse and begin ingesting once more, and that can find yourself killing me for positive,” stated Rowton, a recovering alcoholic who attended 329 straight residence video games earlier than ending the streak this season.

The sport will likely be performed in entrance of about 22,000 followers in Tampa, a lot of them vaccinated well being employees.

In Tampa, Mayor Jane Castor introduced a short lived ordinance requiring that masks be worn exterior in a number of standard gathering spots. The order states that violators might be fined $500 as a “final resort.”

One other ordinance requires masks at any indoor location when social distancing just isn’t attainable. That would come with many bars and eating places however not personal residences.

Town has acquired 150,000 donated masks that officers will give out to anybody who wants one within the days main as much as the Tremendous Bowl. The slogan is “want a masks, simply ask.”

Castor, a former Tampa police chief who dealt with legislation enforcement for previous Tremendous Bowls within the metropolis, stated she is keenly conscious that the aim is to stop the sport from changing into an occasion that triggers a spike in infections.

“We’re internet hosting an occasion that’s going to be probably the most watched sporting occasion in your entire world,” she stated. “We’ve received to get this proper.”

As a part of that effort, Castor launched a joint video with Kansas Metropolis, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas urging warning. Final yr, an estimated 20,000 individuals confirmed up on the Energy & Gentle District in downtown Kansas Metropolis to observe the Tremendous Bowl on an enormous display.

Lucas referred to as for the precise reverse within the video: “I encourage everybody to rejoice in small teams as an alternative of compacting right into a crowded bar.”

The Kansas Hospital Affiliation enlisted the Chiefs’ play-by-play announcer to do a public service announcement urging well being precautions.

Hospitals in Kansas, Missouri and a number of other different Midwestern states had been bursting in November and December with coronavirus sufferers, though instances have dropped just lately. The scenario was so dire at one level that rural sufferers had been being flown a whole bunch of miles for therapy as a result of nearer hospitals had been full. Well being officers don’t need to see that situation repeated.

“If in case you have 10 or 20 individuals you’re assembly with, there’s a excellent probability that one or two of these individuals could have COVID-19,” stated Dr. Dana Hawkinson, director of an infection management for the College of Kansas Well being System, which was inundated through the surge. “If you’re in a small enclosed house, then three or 4 of these individuals will get it.”

Kile Chaney, a 42-year-old stone mason from Harrisonville, Missouri, stated he could have no hassle following that recommendation. He described himself as introverted by nature and stated he plans to barbecue wings and watch the sport at residence together with his household.

“We don’t normally make too massive of a deal to exit to Tremendous Bowl events anyway,” Chaney stated, “so the COVID factor just isn’t going to play into how we rejoice a Chiefs victory.”

This story was corrected to replicate that 22,000 followers, not 25,000, are anticipated to attend the sport.

Hollingsworth reported from Mission, Kansas. Anderson reported from St. Petersburg, Florida. Related Press Author John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas, additionally contributed to this report.

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