Going to a Super Bowl Party? Now Is the Time to Start COVID Testing

Hand holding a negative coronavirus test

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Key Takeaways

  • Health experts recommend taking a rapid COVID-19 test before gathering for any Super Bowl watch party. 
  • If you get a negative test result, experts suggest testing for a second time, regardless of symptoms, to make sure an infection does not go undetected. 
  • Consider taking a test up to four days before a gathering and a second test the day of the event.

Nearly 193 million adults in the U.S. plan to watch the 2023 Super Bowl this Sunday, and over 100 million will be at watch parties.

If you plan to tune in to the big game with a group, health experts recommend taking not just one rapid COVID test beforehand to ensure a negative, but two or more. And the first test should happen now.

This method of repeat testing following an initial negative result is called serial testing, and became a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommendation in August 2022.

“It is still suggested to repeat the antigen testing if an initial test was negative. Identifying positive individuals will interrupt cycles of transmission of the virus,” Heba Mostafa, PhD, MBBCh, associate professor of pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of the Molecular Virology Laboratory at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, told Verywell in an email. 

The goal of repeat testing is to reduce the risk of false negatives and to prevent people from unknowingly spreading COVID to others.

When to Test

Anyone attending an event is encouraged to test for COVID, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms. Mostafa said you should take your first test up to four days prior to a gathering and second test 48 hours later or on the day of the event.

For example, if you plan to host or attend a Super Bowl party, ideally, you should take your first rapid test on Thursday and a second test on Sunday, the day of the event. 

If You Test Positive

According to the FDA, you can take a positive test at face value, and there’s no need to test again. The risk of false positives is low. This means you should not attend a Super Bowl party.

“It might be a good approach to do repeat testing with a second test on the day of a large gathering, particularly for symptomatic individuals and when vulnerable populations might be exposed” Mostafa said.

However, if you can’t meet this general testing timeline, other experts say you can still take a rapid test at least a day before gathering with friends and family and potentially a second test the day of the event.

“People usually wait 24 hours and I think 24 is probably the best. That’s why I suggested if you are going to test, test on Saturday, and if you think you need to retake it, you could test again on Sunday,” Sharon Nachman, MD, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, told Verywell.

Nachman added that taking two rapid at-home tests should be sufficient for the general public. However, those who want to take extra precautions can go to their local testing facility, pharmacy, or health care provider to take a PCR test.

“Two rapid tests is probably the best that you could do in the timeframe that you have the ability to do it. Some people are going to go out and get PCR testing—I understand why they’re doing it, and I don’t want to stop them from doing it,” Nachman said. “But, I think for the general run-of-the-mill situation, two rapid tests is probably going to be pretty sufficient.”

What Does the FDA Say?

FDA guidance on exactly when to take subsequent rapid tests if your first test is negative is more precise.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms: Test again 48 hours later for a total of two tests. If your test is still negative but think you have COVID, either take a third test 48 hours later or seek out a PCR test.

If you do not have COVID-19 symptoms: Test again after 48 hours, then 48 hours after the second negative test, for a total of at least three negative tests.

What If You Have COVID Symptoms? 

If you are experiencing any symptoms related to a COVID-19 infection, including cough, sore throat, or allergy symptoms, you should not attend any gatherings at all, Mark Kline, MD, physician-in-chief at Children’s Hospital of New Orleans, told Verywell in an email.

Beyond taking multiple at-home tests before a Super Bowl get-together, Kline said people can follow other health measures, such as masking, social distancing, gathering in well-ventilated areas or the outdoors, and getting boosted to add another layer of protection against the virus for themselves and others. 

What This Means For You

Before gathering with your friends and family for the Super Bowl, experts recommend asymptomatic and symptomatic individuals take multiple at-home COVID-19 rapid tests after a negative test result. Testing is generally recommended at least four days before a gathering and a second test is suggested on the day of a watch party/event.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Retail Federation. Super Bowl.

  2. Food and Drug Administration. At-home COVID-19 antigen tests—take steps to reduce your risk of false negative results: FDA safety communication.

By Alyssa Hui
Alyssa Hui is a St. Louis-based health and science news writer. She was the 2020 recipient of the Midwest Broadcast Journalists Association Jack Shelley Award.