Just as the United States appears to have emerged from the worst of a coronavirus outbreak that ravaged the country for months and peaked after Americans crammed inside for the winter break, the Public health officials are concerned about another potential super-spread date: Super Bowl Sunday.
January was the country’s deadliest month to date in the pandemic, accounting for 20%, or 95,246, of the more than 460,000 coronavirus deaths the United States has recorded in the past 12 months. That’s more people than even the largest stadium in the NFL could contain.
Experts fear football fans gathered in Tampa, Fla. On Sunday for the Kansas City Chiefs-Tampa Bay Buccaneers championship game, or on watch nights across the country, could delay fledgling progress of recent weeks. Daily reports of new cases and deaths remain high but have declined somewhat. The seven-day average of new cases reported in the United States fell to 125,804 on Friday, the lowest level since November 10. Reports of deaths, a delayed indicator as patients who die from Covid-19 typically do so weeks after being infected, averaging 2,913 per day, the lowest rate since January 7.
The United States administers an average of 1.3 million doses of vaccine per day, as the Biden administration strives to speed up distribution before more contagious variants that might elude vaccines become dominant. The NFL has proposed to President Biden the 30 stages of its use as sites for mass vaccination.
Officials such as Dr Anthony S. Fauci, Mr Biden’s chief medical adviser on Covid-19, have warned Americans against gathering 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,” Dr. Fauci said on MSNBC Friday.
“It’s the perfect setup for hosting a mini super-spreader event in your home,” he added. “Don’t do that yet.”
While health experts worry about an increase in the number of post-game cases, some have said they anticipate nothing as deadly as the post-holiday wave that peaked in January. That’s because Thanksgiving and Christmas tend to stimulate more domestic travel than the Super Bowl, said Dr. Catherine Oldenburg, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco.
Yet even the holidays pose a threat, said Carl Bergstrom, professor of biology at the University of Washington.
“I have a feeling it’s a really good year to watch it at home with your family and not go to Super Bowl parties like you usually would because we’re just starting to get a handle on that in this country.” , Dr Bergstrom told me.
Dr Bergstrom also expressed concern about the more than 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 you get 25,000 people together screaming and screaming during a pandemic, you’re going to have transmission,” said Dr Bergstrom.
Public health experts fear that new, more contagious variants, like the one first identified in Britain and known as B.1.1.7, will soon become dominant and lead to a deadly outbreak this spring. At least 187 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant have been detected in Florida, more than in any other state, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Bars will be open in Florida during the game, with some announcing Super Bowl parties. Before the game, the Tampa mask order was extended to apply to outdoor areas where people could congregate.
Super Bowl ticket holders have not been deterred by the pandemic. Jeremiah Coleman, a Wichita Chiefs fan, Kan., Said, “On my deathbed this will probably be one of the best five days I can remember in my life, you know?