6 Reasons You Shouldn’t Attend a Super Bowl Party This Year

family watching football game

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Key Takeaways

  • Super Bowl parties are risky this year because of the potential spread of COVID-19.
  • Experts say it's best to stay home with your household this year and avoid gatherings.
  • If you do attend a party, wear a mask and make sure to watch the game outdoors distanced from others.

The Super Bowl is an unofficial holiday in the U.S., with people typically gathering together to watch the game. But that tradition can be tricky during a global pandemic.

This year, there seems to be a unanimous consensus among doctors about gathering with friends to watch the game: Don’t do it.

“People should stay home and have their party with the people they live with,” Richard Watkins, MD, an infectious disease physician and a professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, tells Verywell.

The virus doesn’t take a break because of the game, Prathit Arun Kulkarni, MD, assistant professor of medicine of infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, tells Verywell. “The suggestion would be to follow all usual public health guidelines that are currently in place: universal masking and physical distancing outside the home, avoiding large crowds, and frequent handwashing," he says. "These same strategies will promote safety for Super Bowl weekend as well.”

What This Means For You

The safest way to watch the Super Bowl this year is at home with members of your own household. If you choose to go to a Super Bowl party, make sure to watch the game outdoors, stay spaced out from others, and wear a mask.

Why Is a Super Bowl Party Risky?

Traditional Super Bowl gatherings create plenty of potential issues that can increase the risk of spreading COVID-19, experts say. Thinking about getting together with friends anyway to watch the game? Experts recommend keeping these risk factors in mind.

People Typically Watch the Game Indoors

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that indoor gatherings with people from outside your household raise your risk of contracting COVID-19. Being in a closed space with “poor ventilation” is particularly risky, Lewis Nelson, MD, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, tells Verywell. That, along with “the belief that it is acceptable to uncover your face all raise the risk,” he says.

“Lack of ventilation and breathing the same air greatly magnifies the risk of catching COVID-19 if someone there is infected, remembering that 50% of infected people have no symptoms,” Watkins says. “Others can be in the pre-infection stage.”

You’re in Close Proximity to Others for Hours

The Super Bowl can go on for four hours or more. Right now, the CDC defines “close contact” with someone who has COVID-19 as 15 minutes—less time than it would take to even get through one-quarter of the game with commercial breaks. 

It’s also unlikely that you’ll be able to stay spaced out for the recommended six feet during the game. “The movement of aerosolized particles that we create when speaking is distance-limited which is why the six-foot ‘guideline’ has been developed,” Nelson says. “Longer exposure and shorter distance significantly raise the risk of catching COVID-19 from another person.”

People Will Take off Masks to Eat and Drink—A Lot

Super Bowl parties are know for their snacks and drinks, and that means people will be eating and drinking throughout the game. Even if your gathering has a mask mandate, it’s impossible for people to keep their masks on the whole time if they plan to eat and drink, Nelson points out.

“Briefly removing a mask and rapidly replacing it, if done in an appropriate setting—distanced from others—is probably a small risk, but not risk free,” he says. “Taking a mask off for a long period, such as an entire meal, especially near others, significantly raises the risk of exposure to COVID-19 if others are contagious.”

Guests Will Be Handling the Same Food

Similarly, these parties are known for their buffets, which means guests will be touching the same food and utensils. While it’s less common, the CDC says that COVID-19 can be spread from touching an infected surface like handling a spoon an infected person used.

However, experts are most concerned about people gathering close together at the buffet. “The proximity to others sharing the food is a known risk,” Nelson says.

People Will Be Yelling and Cheering

While this is more of a concern if you gather indoors, it can also be risky outdoors if you’re in close proximity to others, Nelson says.

“This is among the greatest risks given that singing, cheering, and screaming makes the vocal cords vibrate significantly more than normal—this is the source of the aerosolized virus,” he says. “Even outdoors, the more particles one generates, the greater the risk to bystanders.”

Alcohol Will Likely Be Involved

Plenty of people drink while watching the game, but that can lead to a more lax attitude with COVID-19 prevention, Watkins says.

“It impairs judgment and makes people less likely to social distance and follow other precautions,” he says.

How to Watch the Game Safely

The CDC recently released guidance on safe ways to watch the Super Bowl, urging people to gather virtually or with the people they live with.

The guidance includes the following recommendations for a virtual party:

  • Wear clothing or decorate your home with your favorite team’s logo or colors
  • Make appetizers or snacks with the people you live with to enjoy while watching the game and share the recipes with your friends and family
  • Start a text group with your friends to talk about the game while you watch

If you choose to gather with others, the CDC recommends doing it outdoors. They also offered these specific suggestions for safety:

  • Use a projector screen to broadcast the game
  • Sit at least six feet away from people you don’t live with

Overall, experts say it’s really best to avoid gathering with friends this year.

“A Super Bowl party creates a situation that carries many of the high-risk characteristics for disease transmission,” Nelson says. “All this said, if you feel that the risk is worthwhile, wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands, and keep your excitement at bay."

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.

4 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. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Personal and social activities.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Operational considerations for adapting a contact tracing program to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How COVID-19 spreads.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Small gatherings.

By Korin Miller
Korin Miller is a health and lifestyle journalist who has been published in The Washington Post, Prevention, SELF, Women's Health, The Bump, and Yahoo, among other outlets.