The NFL likely won’t need to resort to having cardboard cutouts at next month’s Super Bowl to make the stands look full.
Los Angeles County at this time doesn’t expect to restrict attendance at sporting events even with COVID-19 infection rates rising in the area and around the country amid the Omicron variant outbreak.
“We are working closely with the NFL to welcome the Super Bowl to L.A. County,” the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Thursday told Yahoo Sports in a statement. “And while we cannot provide certainty for the future, we do not anticipate capacity limits at sporting events.”
L.A. County’s pledge not to revert to stricter early pandemic restrictions comes the day after a report that the NFL is exploring contingency sites if SoFi Stadium is unable to host the Super Bowl as scheduled. AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, is one of the facilities that was contacted, WFAA reported Wednesday.
While the NFL subsequently clarified that it still plans to hold the Super Bowl in Los Angeles and that it identifies potential backup venues every year, the search for emergency options attracted more attention this year because of the disparity in how states have responded to the pandemic. California has implemented tougher COVID-19 protocols than many other states and Los Angeles County has frequently taken an even stricter stance by adding on further restrictions.
On Wednesday, California announced that it is extending its indoor mask mandate until at least Feb. 15, two days after the Super Bowl. Los Angeles County already required everyone 2 years of age and older to wear a mask at outdoor events with more than 10,000 attendees.
Although the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers have played all season at SoFi Stadium in front of capacity crowds, both teams have taken extra precautions as a result of the recent spike in infections. Since Dec. 15, fans 5 years and older must provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result to gain entry to the stadium.
Los Angeles last hosted a Super Bowl in 1993. The NFL awarded the Super Bowl to SoFi Stadium in 2016 before construction crews even broke ground on the glittering $5 billion venue.
Earlier this week, Yahoo Sports asked the California Department of Public Health how much worse the Omicron outbreak would have to get in order to trigger stricter COVID-19 restrictions. The CDPH did not directly respond, but in his news briefing on Wednesday, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly made it clear the state is committed to hosting the Super Bowl in Los Angeles.
“The Super Bowl is coming to L.A., and I think Californians are excited to see that event occur,” Ghaly said. “The work is to be sure that, as it is moving forward as planned, the mitigation strategies that create safety around that event are in place.”