California has seen significant declines in COVID-19 in recent weeks.
But Super Bowl Sunday brings new risks — especially as more contagious variants take hold.
Here's what you need to know:
How to watch
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Ferrer warned that the riskiest thing people could do Sunday was to host or attend Super Bowl Sunday parties, potentially turning the game into a superspreader event. She urged residents to connect virtually or watch the game at home.
Advice from the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, echoed Ferrer's. She urged Americans to watch the game between Kansas City and Tampa Bay with people “only virtually or with the people you live with.” For those who still want to gather, the CDC suggested hosting an outdoor viewing party, watching the game on a projector screen so that people from different households could sit six feet or more apart.
L.A. County allows small private gatherings, but they must be held outdoors, with no more than three households and 15 people attending. The county requires physical distancing, and mask use when not actively eating or drinking.
The stakes are high.
“If we let down our guard and end up having large numbers of people in our home, inside, not masked, yelling for our teams, then we can see a potential reversal of the downward trend and end up with a new surge,” said Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, medical epidemiologist and infectious diseases expert at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
The new variants
The warning against Super Bowl parties is as much about avoiding the mistakes of the past as it is staving off future calamity. A big warning sign is the rise of the more contagious and possibly deadlier strain of the coronavirus first identified in Britain, B.1.1.7, which has seen considerable growth in San Diego County. The strain already has likely resulted in one death there, and the county's cases represent nearly one-quarter of the known cases nationwide.
San Diego County on Wednesday reported at least 137 confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant and 50 probable cases. There were at least 611 confirmed cases of the variant reported nationwide as of Thursday.
The U.K. variant is believed to be 50% to 70% more transmissible than the regular variety of the circulating coronavirus. Simulations presented by a UC San Diego scientist to government officials warn that, even with a decent vaccination strategy, average new daily coronavirus cases in San Diego County within two months could be twice as bad as the peak during the autumn-and-winter surge, overwhelming hospital capacity there, if residents again reject public health guidance to wear masks and avoid gatherings as they did late last year.
Besides San Diego County, the U.K. strain also has been identified in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Alameda and San Mateo counties, including two students at UC Berkeley who recently came into the U.S. from abroad.
Super Bowl Gatherings
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends hosting a virtual Super Bowl party if possible. Here are some ideas from the CDC for a virtual watch party:
Wear clothing or decorate your home with your favorite team’s logo or colors.
Make appetizers or snacks with the people you live with to enjoy while watching the game, and share the recipes with your friends and family.
Start a text group with other fans to chat about the game while watching.
Use a projector screen to broadcast the game.
Masks have proved to be dramatically effective in slowing the spread of the coronavirus. The CDC recommends the following:
Wear a mask with two or more layers.
Wear your mask over your nose and mouth, secure it under your chin and make sure it fits snugly against the sides of your face.
Masks should be worn indoors and outdoors, except when eating or drinking.
In cold weather, wear your mask under your scarf, ski mask or balaclava.
Keep a spare mask in case your mask becomes wet from moisture in your breath or from snow or rain.
If attending a gathering, have conversations with the host ahead of time to understand expectations for celebrating together. The CDC also recommends that you:
Bring your own food, drinks, plates, cups, utensils and condiment packets.
Avoid shouting, cheering loudly or singing. Clap, stomp your feet or bring (or provide) hand-held noisemakers instead.
Stay home if you are sick or have been near someone who thinks they may have or have been exposed to the coronavirus.
Times staff writers Esmeralda Bermudez and Alex Wigglesworth contributed to this report.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.