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Super Bowl, not super-spreader: Cautious guidance from health leaders

Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 9:01 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Restrictions are lifted. Statewide, COVID hospitalizations in Nebraska are trending downward. Vaccinations continue.

It seems as if Nebraska is starting to turn things around. But could Super Bowl LV change that?

Health officials are doing everything they can to make sure it doesn’t, starting with detailed guidance for people who don’t follow their advice to stay home; or those who do stay home and throw a big party.

The outlined guidance includes:

  • Host a virtual Super Bowl Party.
  • Make appetizers or snacks with the people you live with to enjoy during the game.
  • Start a group text with other fans to chat about the game while watching.
  • Call ahead if you decide to go out and ask about the venue’s plans for safe viewing.
  • Follow signage at the venue to allow for social distancing.

And some restaurants are also going beyond requirements to reduce the chances of spreading the virus. Addy’s Bar & Grill in downtown Omaha won’t look anything like their other locations did last year.

When the Chief’s played in Super Bowl LIV, it was “standing room only and wall to wall fans. It was pandemonium.” said Kristy Byers, the Manager, and Marketing Director.

As she shared fun memories from last year, she also explained while different in 2021, it doesn’t mean guests can’t enjoy a great time.

Byers reminds fans they can expect the same quality of service, but with added precautions. All employees will be masked, ensuring it covers their noses. Guests will be asked to wear their masks when they enter and if they are getting up to play games or move around, and tables will not be rushed for seating until they’ve been thoroughly sanitized.

Also, ”Once the seats are taken then we’re at capacity.” Byers said.

Customers can also book the private party rooms or reserve tables ahead of time, but there won’t be people packed in there unable to distance themselves.

“We’re incredibly grateful we can still celebrate the super bowl and we want our guests to feel safe and comfortable,” said Byers. “We’re still keeping our standards extremely high. Just because restrictions are lifted doesn’t mean we’re lifting our protocol.”

It’s a similar situation at Varsity Sports Cafe and Roman Coin Pizza in Dundee. ”We have learned so much about what to expect and not to expect and just rolled with the punches.” said General Manager Jackie Boersen.

In addition to enforcing masks and additional cleaning in between each guest, her staff is seating people as they come in to keep them distanced and they’ve also removed half their bar stool seats to reduce capacity.

Boersen also said she expects carry-out orders will be huge for fans hoping to avoid party fouls by staying home. As a reward for their effort to increase safety, she’s adding more game-day specials.

All of the cooperation from restaurants and businesses is appreciated by Douglas County Health Department, which acknowledges that many continue to go beyond what is required of them. But Phil Rooney, DCHD Resource Specialist, said it’s his job to push for the safest possible options: No gatherings at all.

“You wanna put out hand-sanitizer if you’re having a party. You certainly don’t wanna be sharing utensils,” said Rooney, who added that despite the recent progress in the state, his department is always concerned about the safety — and won’t ease up anytime soon.

Rooney explained another major concern for game day is much like the concerns for Halloween, and in fact, a bit more heightened. In addition to screaming, yelling, and cheering, people will be drinking, which means lowered inhibitions and in close-contact while sharing recycled air. COVID droplets have a high potential to spread and infect people, he said.

He also warns that people planning to go out should not assume they’re protected because they may have been recently vaccinated. There is not enough science to determine that someone who is vaccinated, can’t still spread the virus to someone else, even if they may have protected their own immune system.

“We do have some positive momentum. A lot of the things, at least in this part of the country, are going well. But don’t think a three- or four-hour football game is a good reason to throw that out the window,” stated Rooney.

Despite the department’s concerns, they do believe people can and should enjoy a safe and fun Super Bowl this year if they heed the guidance.

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