Super Bowl parties can derail L.A. County’s COVID-19 recovery, health officials say

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As the Super Bowl approaches with Los Angeles County just beginning to see declines in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations, health officials are concerned watch parties could lead to another deadly surge.

It wouldn’t be the first time a major sporting event preceded a spike in cases in the county.

“I can’t help but be reminded of past tragic consequences of gatherings,” L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Tuesday. “In the weeks following every holiday, and every major sporting event, we’ve seen some increases in cases, followed by hospitalizations and then deaths.”

The Super Bowl also comes after the county allowed outdoor operations to resume at restaurants, breweries and wineries, with a ban on televisions and limits on the number of people seated together in place to stem virus transmission.

After months of reporting thousands of cases and hospitalizations each day in a devastating post-holiday virus surge, the county recently began seeing numbers decrease.

“We don’t want or need another step backwards in our recovery journey,” Ferrer said.

The warnings come as the county finds cases of the coronavirus variant first detected in the United Kingdom that is known to spread more easily.

On Friday, Dr. Paul Simon, the county’s chief science officer, was asked whether the new variant coupled with Super Bowl gatherings could potentially lead to a fourth surge.

“I really do think it’s impossible to predict the future,” he said, adding, “We do worry — I will say, we do worry — about a large, a big event like the Super Bowl and a natural instinct for people to get together to celebrate, to party and enjoy the game together.”

County data shows jumps in the number of cases that coincide with business reopenings, as well as celebrations of the Lakers’ and Dodgers’ championship wins in October.

“Super Bowl parties do have the power to derail our recovery, and given the likelihood that there are more infectious variants circulating in our community, let’s not take any chances with our own health and the health of others.”

Simon noted that even watching the game outside with non-household members could increase the risk of spreading the virus, with people sitting together and taking their masks off to eat and drink.

“Add on to that a football game like the Super Bowl where people are going to be cheering and it just raises the risk of transmission,” he said.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva also issued a warning to residents in a livestream this week.

“It’s the Super Bowl, not the stupid bowl,” Villanueva said. “Let’s try to keep everyone safe. Don’t drink, don’t drive, don’t bring multiple households together for a super spreader event in your own home, because I guarantee it is going to be your own families that is going to be jeopardized.”

The Sheriff’s Department has been cracking down on “super spreader” parties, busting into underground events throughout the county and citing hundreds of people.

This is because the virus remains widespread, even with the recent declines in numbers. L.A. County reported 5,028 new coronavirus cases Thursday, bringing the countywide total to 1,134,338 with 17,539 deaths attributed to COVID-19. 

“This weekend we ask that you not share with others, your respiratory droplets, which are more easily spread, when we raise our voices, we cheer we sing and chant,” the health director told residents.

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