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How Fans Are Watching The Super Bowl Despite COVID-19 Restrictions


Super Bowl Sunday isn't a holiday, at least not officially. But it is a day when millions of Americans would normally get together indoors, chatting, cheering loudly, double-dipping in the guacamole - in other words, Super Bowl Sunday is a COVID nightmare. To stay safe, public health officials are urging people to stay home to watch the game. NPR's Becky Sullivan talked to a few fans to find out their game plan for Sunday.

BECKY SULLIVAN, BYLINE: Last year, when the Kansas City Chiefs won their first Super Bowl in 50 years, Lyndon Wade's joy could not be contained.

LYNDON WADE: I've never screamed so hard. I just felt like my insides exploded out when they won. I mean, I think I crowd-surfed inside of a bar. I hugged - you know, I hugged so many people.

SULLIVAN: That was the scene at basically every bar with a TV in Kansas City last year - packed to capacity or beyond, with people wearing red and gold, losing their minds at the Chief's comeback win. Here's the sound of just one.


SULLIVAN: This year, with the Chiefs facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Wade would prefer to be going back to the bar. But he has two older parents and a kid with a missing kidney, so it's just not worth the risk, he says. Instead, a very small group of family is self-quarantining for two weeks in order to be indoors safely come Sunday. Wade says they're going to make the most of it in a classic Kansas City way.

WADE: We're smoking a brisket. I'm making potato salad. I'm making coleslaw. I've got every kind of sauce from every barbecue joint. My wife is Indian, so sometimes we split it up, and we'll have a little chutney as well.

SULLIVAN: Two recent polls found that about a quarter of Americans plan to watch the game at a party or a bar. That's a lot less than a normal year, but still enough to have public health officials worried. This week, Dr. Anthony Fauci compared Super Bowl Sunday to Christmas and New Year's. He would have approved of the way that David Mohr. watched last year's Super Bowl. He's a Chiefs fan in enemy territory in Palm Harbor, Fla.

DAVID MOHR: Since this was the first time the Chiefs had made it to the Super Bowl in a long time, all of my friends know how anxious I get during a football game, so I actually sat at home by myself and watched that game.

SULLIVAN: This year, he's actually going. The NFL invited 7,500 vaccinated health care workers to the game, and Moore got one of the golden tickets. Katy Pivato got one, too. She's a huge Bucs fan, wouldn't miss the game for anything. She's a nurse who helps manage the ER at her hospital in Clearwater. She and her husband had started making plans for a small, safe party. Now she says he's on his own.

KATY PIVATO: He's going to stay home and watch at home. He'll take over the planning for the gathering. So that's kind of up to him now (laughter). And I told him he has to record it just in case I get on TV so that I can see it later.

SULLIVAN: The league has taken some steps to limit the risk of COVID spreading at the game. Attendance is limited to 25,000 people. There are rules about distancing. Every fan will receive a KN95 mask and hand sanitizer. Still, public health experts worry. That's a lot of people getting together, many of whom are traveling to and from the Tampa area, potentially bringing COVID with them or taking it home. Dr. Marissa Levine at the University of South Florida says that's a concern, especially because the new U.K. variant is spreading in Florida.

MARISSA LEVINE: Unfortunately, from a COVID point of view, Florida has been pretty open. So we've had lots of people in and out of the state already. And I worry that when you celebrate, particularly if there's alcohol involved, you let your guard down.

SULLIVAN: One last way this will all look different - no matter which team wins on Sunday, both cities have made it clear a traditional Super Bowl parade is off the table.

Becky Sullivan, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.