Like most pandemic-era celebrations, this Super Bowl Sunday needs to look different, said Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Dr. Fauci reminded the public on NBC’s Today show Wednesday to skip the unsafe gatherings when watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend—or risk another post-holiday surge in infection rates.
“Every time we do have something like this, there always is a spike, be it a holiday, Christmas, New Year’s, Thanksgiving,” Dr. Fauci told Savannah Guthrie. “As you mentioned, Super Bowl is a big deal in the United States. Enjoy the game, watch it on television, but do it with the immediate members of your family, the people in your household.”
Dr. Fauci, who is also chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, continued, “As much fun as it is to get together in a big Super Bowl party, now is not the time to do that. Watch the game and enjoy it, but do it with your family or with people that are in your household.” (Dr. Fauci was less direct about who he’s rooting for. “Oh, dear. Well you know, I’m—no, I don’t want to go there,” he said, laughing.)
Dr. Fauci’s cautionary warning—which comes as roadblocks delay the vaccine rollout and potentially more infectious variants spread in the U.S.—will sound pretty familiar by now. It’s the same advice that he and other public health experts repeated before Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other winter holidays traditionally involving indoor get-togethers.
A traditional Super Bowl party is similarly likely to fall on the higher end of the risk spectrum, involving factors that we know increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission at events: held indoors, for an extended period of time, with people outside of each other’s bubbles, who are not wearing masks (let alone sharing wings or yelling at the TV). Having a larger party increases the number of potential exposures, but even small indoor gatherings with people you don’t live with can lead to COVID-19 cases and, ultimately, large spikes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that the safest way to celebrate the Super Bowl this year is to do so virtually or only with the people you already live with. If you do decide to host a small gathering with people outside of your household, however, the CDC recommends holding it outdoors and seating people who don’t live together at least six feet away from each other. And if you’ve been invited to a Super Bowl party and are unsure of how to say no, here’s some advice.