COVID-19 and Super Bowl parties: Are they worth the risk?

For many people, gathering together with friends and family to watch the Super Bowl is an annual tradition. But in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s not exactly recommended.

“As much fun as it is to get together in a big Super Bowl party, now is not the time to do that,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Today Wednesday. “Every time we do have something like this, there always is a spike, be it a holiday, Christmas, New Year’s, Thanksgiving.”

While COVID-19 positivity rates are on the decline across much of the U.S., “there is a significant risk to hosting or attending a Super Bowl party,” Dr. Thomas Russo, professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York, tells Yahoo Life. “People are going to be indoors — that alone is a significant risk — food and drink is going to be going on, masks are going to be down while people eat, everyone will be excited and yelling … and that’s happening for four-plus hours.”

Patrons gather in Ybor City at the start of Super Bowl LV festivities during the COVID-19 pandemic on January 30, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium on February 7. (Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)
While experts advise against hosting or attending Super Bowl festivities, people will still gather to watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Sunday. (Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

Doctors get it, though. “One of the things I’ve found with the pandemic, in general, is that people have a hard time giving up something that’s tradition,” Dr. Jill Foster, a professor of infectious diseases and immunology at the University of Minnesota, tells Yahoo Life. “People have lost so many things already. It’s like, ‘At least I still have the Super Bowl.’”

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not issued specific guidance about the Super Bowl, the organization does have advice on hosting gatherings.

The safest thing to do, Russo says, is to “stay within your household and social bubble.” But, if you’re planning to have a Super Bowl party anyway, there are a few things you can do to make the experience as safe as possible.

Wear masks.

Yes, people are going to be eating and drinking, and masks will need to come off for that. But Foster recommends wearing a mask as much as possible and encouraging your guests to do the same. The CDC suggests having extra masks handy for your guests, just in case.

Take it outside, if you can.

This isn’t possible in a lot of areas because of cold weather, but “if you live someplace like Los Angeles or Florida, why would you cluster indoors?” Foster says. Infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, agrees. “If you can do it outdoors, do it outdoors,” he tells Yahoo Life. Russo recommends putting your TV in a window facing outside and having your guests gather around — while socially distanced.

Host the party in your garage.

If it’s chilly out, Russo recommends considering hosting in your garage with the door open. “You can get cross-ventilation,” he says. “It’s not as good as being outside, but it’s better than being inside.” It’s OK to add a heater to the space, Adalja says — it won’t increase the risk of infection.

Stay 6 feet apart as much as possible.

The CDC specifically recommends arranging tables and chairs to allow for 6 feet of social distancing between household “bubbles” at the party.

Ditch the buffet.

Potluck dishes are a Super Bowl tradition, but having people gather at a buffet can increase the risk of transmission, Adalja says. He recommends having people have their own food instead of going up to a shared space to eat or, if that’s not possible, have one person do the serving.

Encourage handwashing.

“You’ll want to have people washing their hands a lot,” Adalja says. The CDC specifically recommends providing hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol and making sure there is plenty of soap in the bathroom.

Don’t share hand towels.

Instead, the CDC recommends leaving out single-use hand towels or paper towels for drying hands so that guests don’t share a single towel.

Leave out cleaning supplies.

Leaving out bleach wipes, if you have them, is a good idea, Russo says. The CDC specifically recommends leaving out cleaning supplies to allow guests to wipe down surfaces in the bathroom before they leave.

Overall, though, Foster recommends thinking about whether it’s really worth it to gather for the Super Bowl this year. “People are going to cheer and whoop when their team scores and they’re going to be doing it while they’re drinking alcohol — nobody is ever as careful while they’re drinking alcohol,” she says. “After a while, the masks just come off. All you need is one person in that room who has COVID-19, and the whole room will be infected.”

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.

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