South LA

Post Super Bowl LVI celebrations bring about public health, safety concerns

The Rams’ win at last night’s Super Bowl had the city celebrating, but not without some questions about safety and COVID-19.

A photo of fans lighting fireworks.

Fans flooded the streets of downtown Los Angeles on Sunday cheering, setting off fireworks and dancing. The scene could only mean one thing: an L.A. sports team had just won a championship.

This time, it was the Los Angeles Rams claiming the NFL’s Lombardi trophy that sent fans into a frenzy. The 23-20 nail-biting win over the Cincinnati Bengals gave the city plenty to celebrate.

Anton Ramirez, sophomore computer science major at USC, didn’t attend the Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood but did enjoy post-game celebrations in downtown L.A.

“It just brought the community closer,” Ramirez said. “[It’s] the only time since I’ve been here that I felt like, wow, you know, it’s more of a community.”

But beneath the waves of excitement, multiple safety concerns arose surrounding the post-game celebrations.

“At one point there was this one bus that already had graffiti all over it,” Ramirez said. “The bus driver just bailed and someone went in and set off fireworks, everyone there started cheering.”

Ramirez was not the only USC student to witness chaos downtown. Junior business administration major Tyler Twiss saw the celebrations develop.

“There were a lot of cops, a lot of police blocking off streets,” Twiss said. “[There were] also Rams fans and a lot of music was playing. It wasn’t too crazy, but there was definitely a bit of that.”

Even Super Bowl LVI performers such as dancer Kacie Noel Garland, who took the stage with 50 Cent, were able to get a glimpse of the post-game action.

“We [the dancers] left before we found out the Rams won,” Garland said. “But in the midst of leaving the parking lot, people were getting out of their cars, jumping on top of [other] cars. I saw everything.”

In addition to safety concerns, the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak also loomed over indoor celebrations after the Super Bowl, according to Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, a clinical professor of population and public health sciences at USC.

SoFi Stadium hosted more than 70,000 fans for the big game, and the stadium’s guidelines required fans to either show proof of vaccination or proof of a negative PCR COVID-19 test within 48 hours of the game, or a negative Antigen test within 24 hours. Masks were mandatory throughout the entirety of the event, except while actively eating or drinking, though many fans were unmasked.

Even still, Dr. Klausner does not think the game itself will cause a COVID-19 outbreak.

“It was a reasonable time where there’s been outdoor football events over the past month or two, [really] the whole season,” Klausner said. “We really have not seen any associated transmission events with the outdoor venue.”

Klausner likened the ventilation capacity of SoFi stadium to being an outdoor setting, despite the stadium’s roof being closed, with only side panels open for airflow. He deemed the setting a “very low-risk environment.”

Klausner identified indoor settings surrounding the Super Bowl as a true threat for COVID-19 spread.

“These sports gatherings, especially associated with crowded indoor events, can result in the spread of infection,” Klausner said. “People are indoors, they’re crowded in bars, they’re yelling in bars, they’re going to indoor parties, indoor events. That’s the place where spread[ing] can occur. Reality is that in those indoor events, people are not wearing masks in general.”

The Rams will be the first Los Angeles team to host a championship parade since the coronavirus pandemic began. Both the Lakers and Dodgers were denied the chance to host parades after their NBA Finals and World Series wins in 2020.

“[More parades] will just get piled on,” Ramirez said. “Everyone’s very excited about the L.A. win.”

Super Bowl LV, held in Tampa Bay last year, was not considered a “super-spreader” event despite concerns that the large gathering would cause an outbreak of COVID-19 cases. Time will tell if Super Bowl LVI will follow that pattern.