California officials said Wednesday they expect Los Angeles to host the Super Bowl as planned, despite surging coronavirus cases in the area.
“The Super Bowl is coming to L.A. I think Californians are excited to see that event occur,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly told reporters at a briefing, “and 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.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s chief of staff later reinforced the administration’s message that California will host the championship event next month, tweeting that he looked forward to seeing a California team play “in the SuperBowl here in CA.”
Infection rates are rising in California and around the country as the extra-contagious Omicron variant spreads. The surge spurred California officials to announce on Wednesday they were extending an indoor mask mandate until mid-February, as Ghaly warned of rising hospitalization numbers.
“We are and continue to be concerned about our hospitals,” Ghaly said.
That could complicate hosting the Super Bowl, a massive undertaking that typically includes numerous events leading up to the primetime centerpiece. A Texas ABC affiliate reported on Wednesday that the National Football League had explored relocating the Super Bowl to a venue outside of California — including the stadium where the Dallas Cowboys play.
A switch to Texas in particular could be galling to Newsom, who frequently uses the red state as a foil in touting California’s stringent pandemic protocols that have kept coronavirus fatalities low relative to other states.