Don’t Make Game Day ‘Superspreader Sunday’

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Feb. 5, 2021 — Though Super Bowl Sunday is not a national holiday, it is often treated as one — a daylong celebration full of friends, family, and food. But this year will be different. At least, that’s what doctors are hoping.

Medical professionals are pleading with the public to stay physically distanced and keep gatherings virtual this Sunday. Otherwise, there could be renewed spikes in COVID-19 cases — a particularly alarming prospect given the new strains that have cropped up.

“We’re worried because there are new variants of COVID, so there’s even less room for error,” says Preeti Malani, MD, chief health officer and professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Michigan. “We don’t want Super Bowl Sunday to become ‘Superspreader Sunday.’”

There are three specific variants that have caused concern so far — originating in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil — all of which have been detected in the United States. They seem to be more contagious than the original strain, and it is unclear how well the available vaccines protect against them.

“This Sunday, remember whichever team you’re rooting for and whichever commercial is your favorite, please watch the Super Bowl safely, gathering only virtually or with the people you live with,” CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, said Wednesday at a White House COVID-19 Response Team news conference.

Anthony Fauci, MD, the White House COVID-19 Response Team’s chief medical adviser, has issued warnings similar to ones he offered during the holiday season. In an interview with NBC’s Today show Wednesday, he said “there always is a spike” of new infections following traditionally social times.

“Enjoy the game, watch it on television, but do it with the immediate members of your family, the people in your household,” he said.

Thankfully, surveys show that many people may heed those warnings. The National Retail Federation reports that just 28% off people say they will be throwing or attending a party or watching the game at a bar — the lowest in the survey’s history. In 2018, survey results showed 18% said they would host a Super Bowl party, and 28% said they’d attend one. Five percent said they would go to a bar or restaurant.

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