Images of what appears to be a packed stadium at the Super Bowl unfolding in Tampa Bay on Sunday night had many people on social media asking, "pandemic? What pandemic?"
It’s the biggest event in football, normally attended by tens of thousands of people. While that was fine in the pre-pandemic world, large gatherings are now more of a cause for panic than celebration. Which is why it’s no surprise that people took to Twitter to register their confusion when coverage of the sporting event seemed to show fans sitting shoulder to shoulder in Florida's Raymond James Stadium.
But the stadium isn’t actually packed with fans. According to the NFL, 30,000 cardboard cutouts are in attendance, spaced out specifically to ensure social distancing for the live, human fans who are also attending.
Around 7,500 of those fans are vaccinated health care workers, who were given free tickets to the game in order to honour frontline heroes, according to the NFL.
It’s unknown if the rest of the crowd — around 14,500 additional people — have been vaccinated or not.
The Raymond James Stadium can seat a little more than 65,000 people, so it’s far from at capacity.
But although the cardboard seat buddies may be keeping fans spaced out, and officials say everyone will be provided with face masks, many are afraid that gathering thousands of people in one location is still a bad idea during COVID-19, and could send the wrong message.
Among the critics were health experts, such as Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician, who tweeted a photo of the football game, along with the caption: “Whoever writes the Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the Great Covid Pandemic will prolllly be including this photograph in said book.”
And yes, I’m aware that there are cardboard cutouts in this photograph.
A) why have anyone?
B) this gives permission for other large events.
C) misses mark on choices we need to make so that this is all over sooner.
the covid-19 moment of silence before the superbowl ... which is in and of itself going to be a super spreader event ... is some real uniquely american cognitive dissonance.— ✍�� roxana | ✊�� zivar | ⚒️ hadadi (@roxana_hadadi) February 7, 2021
With a crowd this big, the real winner this #SuperBowl is COVID.— Ahmed Ali (@MrAhmednurAli) February 7, 2021