A day after the NFL admitted it’s looking at “contingency planning” for Super Bowl LVI as COVID-19 cases explode in Southern California, Los Angeles County leaders insisted Thursday that they expect the game to kick off as planned at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood next month.
“I feel really confident the event will happen here in L.A. There’s no indication that it won’t, and we’ll work really closely to enhance safety if, again, we’re still in the middle of a horrific surge,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County Public Health Director, told reporters during a virtual media briefing.
But Los Angeles may need more than hope to keep the game, as the COVID-19 crisis continues to spiral.
Earlier in the day, the county reported 30 deaths and 37,215 new COVID-19 cases — the highest single-day case count since the pandemic began. Despite the jaw-dropping number, hospitalizations are lower than last winter’s peak when some hospitals in the county were forced to turn ambulances away.
Still, the county health chief admitted the numbers are problematic as SoCal prepares to roll out the red carpet for Super Bowl attendees.
“It will be challenging if the surge continues into February, but I do think we’re working closely with both the NFL and SoFi Stadium to have a wonderful Super Bowl here with the appropriate safety precautions that will keep fans safe and our community safe,” Ferrer said.
County leaders were grilled by reporters after the NFL confirmed Wednesday it’s been looking at possible alternate sites. Although a spokesman for the league said the plan is to keep the game in California.
“As part of our standard contingency planning process that we conduct for all regular and postseason games, we have contacted several clubs to inquire about stadium availability in the event we cannot play the Super Bowl as scheduled due to weather-related issues or unforeseen circumstances,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement to TheWrap.
“Our planning process for the Super Bowl in Los Angeles is ahead of schedule and we look forward to hosting the Super Bowl there to culminate another fantastic NFL season for our fans and clubs,” McCarthy added, while also noting that the Rams on Sunday will host the 20th NFL game at SoFi Stadium this season in front of 70,000 plus fans.
L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell told reporters it doesn’t make sense to move the game with every state facing challenges as COVID cases surge because of the Omicron variant.
“This is an international pandemic. I’m not sure why it would make more sense to have it in Texas,” she said.
Super Bowl LVI is scheduled to kick off on Sunday, Feb. 13 in Inglewood.
Watch the L.A. County health briefing below.