Health officials urge against large game day gatherings

NOW: Health officials urge against large game day gatherings

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- Super Bowl Sunday is a weekend known for large family and friend gatherings in the living room and celebrations at your local bar or restaurant. Which is why this time around, during the pandemic, game day is concerning.

“Usually it’s a time for large gatherings. They tend to be loud, tend to have a lot of communal food and alcohol very often so that combination is really concerning,” St. Joseph County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Mark Fox said.

Taphouse on Edge Sports Bar in South Bend is one of many businesses who usually hit max capacity during a normal Super Bowl Sunday.

“We normally have a big crowd here to cheer on whichever team is playing. We have tons of reservations, it’s packed in here it’s a lot of fun and the excitement for the weekend is really energetic,” Taphouse on Edge General Manager Erica Debreese said.

However, this year won’t be like past ones.

“We’re not expecting, or I guess we’re hoping for but aren’t anticipating as many people to be coming into the restaurant,” Debreese said.

While St. Joseph County metrics are in the yellow category, the advisory color is still orange, meaning social gatherings and event limits don’t change unless we maintain the trends for two weeks.

“Bars and restaurants are allowed to operate as long as they follow the guidelines and provide for physical distancing,” Dr. Fox said. “The real issue is ability to adhere to physical distancing and then there are expectations that people can’t be standing three deep at the bar to order their drinks they need to be seated and need to have their mask on.”

One of the biggest spikes in St. Joe County was the week following the Notre Dame vs. Clemson game back in November. St. Joseph County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Mark Fox saying he’s concerned we may experience something similar.

“One of my concerns has always been that there are a lot of people in the county watching that game somewhere, either at a house party or at a bar or restaurant and we saw a significant increase in cases. I have concern that we could see the same thing following the Super Bowl as well,” Dr. Fox said.

Dr. Fox said even more caution no matter where you go is key. He recommends for those who plan to stay home and celebrate on Super Bowl Sunday to keep those gatherings to a 10-person limit, to not high-five no matter how difficult it may be or share food. Instead, try serving snacks on individual plates or platters! These same recommendations also apply to anyone attending a restaurant or bar this weekend to celebrate. Health officials urge businesses to buckle down even more on social distancing and mask wearing at all times, since cheering and screaming could increase the chances of COVID transmission.

“During high traffic times like halftime and keep in mind that shouting and cheering allows the virus to spread more easily,” Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said.

“The safest way to gather in a space like that would be to remain masked except for the times when you’re actually eating or drinking,” Dr. Fox said.

Taphouse on Edge Manager Erica Debreese said they have other options for those who feel safer celebrating at home.

“We have put together a lot of carry-out bundles a lot of catering packages, I guess to help feed those people who are at home trying to celebrate,” Debreese said.

They also have strict protocol in place for those who stop by.

"Everyone has to wear a mask and then we try to try out best to separate or stagger the tables as we seat them and we’ve increased the spacing between our tables as well,” Debreese said.

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