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Health officials fear Super Bowl, Chinese New Year could fuel another surge

San Francisco Examiner - 2/3/2021

As excitement builds for Super Bowl Sunday, California's top health official warned residents Tuesday against gathering with people outside their own household to watch the game, fearing it could lead to another COVID-19 surge.

Case rates have declined in California after months of an alarming surge, but how people choose to celebrate Super Bowl 55 between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could play a factor in the trajectory of the virus, according to California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly.

"We want to make sure that this Super Bowl does not become that next big spread event," Ghaly said at a virtual press conference Tuesday. "Let's not have the Super Bowl become the next beginning of a huge surge here in California."

He advised people to only watch and celebrate the big game, which is being played in Tampa, Fla., with members of their own household.

Ghaly said that the fall and winter surge in California coincided with holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving as well as championship wins by Southern California teams the Lakers and the Dodgers.

The surge hit Los Angeles hardest but affected the entire state and prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom to impose a stay-at-home order that was just lifted last week.

Ghaly also issued a similar warning for Lunar New Year next week, advising everyone to avoid in person gatherings and not to mix with loved ones not seen for a while.

The caution comes amid good news for the rate of COVID-19. The positivity rate for the past two weeks is at 7.2%, down from 11.6% on Jan. 19.

Ghaly said the latest data is a "positive sign about the trajectory of transmission across the state." Hospitalization and ICU admissions have also decreased significantly over the past two weeks.

The state reported Tuesday there were 12,064 newly diagnosed cases of COVID-19, a significant drop compared to days in December when there more than 50,000 new cases reported.

On the vaccine front, more than 3.6 million vaccines were administered to people through the state, according to the latest data.

In San Francisco, there were 68,712 residents who have received at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, 9% of the adult population, as of Tuesday. The City reported 140 newly diagnosed cases of COVID-19 and has an average two week positivity rate of 4.8%.

Ghaly cautioned that the state remains at risk for another surge. He said that it will depend on people's behavior to keep it in check, including wearing masks and remaining socially distant. And he said there remains an "unknown" on how mutated COVID-19 strains may affect the rates.

"The chance for another surge in California is real. It is still circulating, COVID is, in our communities," Ghaly said. "Our case rates are down, but they are not low. We've got to keep our guard up."

The state updates the tier status of counties every Tuesday. San Francisco remains in the most restrictive purple tier, along with 53 other counties.