What you need to know about Super Bowl gatherings, DUI enforcement in LA County

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Sunday, February 7, 2021
'Superspreader' Sunday? LA County officials warn against Super Bowl gatherings
While COVID-19 cases have been steadily dropping over the last few weeks in Los Angeles County, health officials are worried that large gatherings on Super Bowl Sunday could spark another surge.

The daily number of new infections and the hospitalization rate have recently been falling in Los Angeles County, but officials are warning the public to exercise caution for Sunday's Super Bowl to avoid a repeat of last year's World Series and NBA Finals, when gatherings at bars, restaurants and private homes were blamed for fueling a spike in COVID-19 cases.

"Despite seeing some decreases, we continue to experience widespread community transmission in our county,'' Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. "The riskiest thing people can do tomorrow for Super Bowl Sunday, given our high case counts, is gather with others that don't live with them to enjoy the game. Please don't attend or host parties that could turn Super Bowl Sunday into super-spreader Sunday. Instead, enjoy the game at home with those who live with you or connect virtually with friends and family online to prevent another surge in cases.''

Long Beach is the only city in L.A. County that is allowing eateries to keep televisions on outside during Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs, which begins at 3:30 p.m. PST Sunday.

RELATED | Reopening LA County: Outdoor dining again allowed at restaurants, but without screens for TV broadcasts

After a two-month shutdown due to surging COVID-19 cases, outdoor dining again was allowed in Los Angeles County on Friday but with a new restriction forcing restaurants to turn off or remove from customer seating areas all televisions used for broadcast programming.

The L.A. County Department of Public Health banned TVs and outdoor screens at restaurants to limit the number of people gathering and avoid COVID-19 "superspreader" events.

Long Beach and Pasadena have their own public health departments, and Pasadena followed L.A. County's lead while Long Beach chose not to do so. The Long Beach Venue Task Force will be monitoring eateries to ensure businesses are following the city's health order.

Management at Taco Shore in the Long Beach restaurant of Belmont Shore said the restaurant is closing at 5 p.m. to prevent large crowds from gathering.

"I think it's great. As long as people stay protected, yeah we need some freedom, c'mon. We've been locked down for nine months now," said Long Beach resident Eric Hughes. "But I think people need to be safe about it. Social distancing is key. Follow the rules."

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Police Department and other law enforcement agencies will conduct extra patrols today to search for impaired drivers in connection with Super Bowl LV.

The LAPD announced it will conduct a DUI saturation patrol from 5 p.m.-1 a.m in the Van Nuys area and operate a DUI checkpoint from 6-11 p.m. at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Figueroa Street in South Los Angeles.

MORE | Orange County nurses, respiratory therapists among lucky few attending Super Bowl in person

A dozen football-loving health care workers from Orange County are among the lucky few who will be at Super Bowl 55 in Tampa, Florida.

"If you are watching the game at home and plan to have a drink or two, stay at home," said Cmdr. Gerald Woodyard, the commanding officer of the LAPD's Traffic Group. "Have a family member who hasn't been drinking go out on your behalf or have your food delivered."

California Highway Patrol officers will also be on high alert for impaired drivers, Commissioner Amanda Ray said.

Ray encouraged the public to call 9-1-1 if they suspect an impaired driver. Callers should be prepared to give the vehicle's description, location, license plate number and direction of travel.

According to preliminary data from the CHP's Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System, four people died in alcohol-involved collisions in California on Super Bowl Sunday in 2020 and 120 people were injured. The CHP made more than 300 arrests for suspicion of DUI, Ray said.

Alcohol is not the only thing that could impair a motorist and lead to an arrest, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Robert Hill said.

"Prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and marijuana may affect your ability to drive safely,'' Hill said. Do your research and understand how a drug affects you before deciding whether or not you are OK to drive.''

RELATED | Officials warn against Super Bowl gatherings that could fuel COVID-19 spread

While Covid-19 numbers are trending in the right direction across much of the US, officials nationwide warned against Super Bowl gatherings to avoid another surge of infections.

California's public health guidelines advise minimizing contact with people you don't live with in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19, Hill said.

"Although many watch parties will be virtual this year, it's important to plan ahead, designate a sober driver or simply stay at home for the night,'' Hill said.

Patricia Rillera, Mothers Against Drunk Driving's California executive director, asked those watching the game to "make the choice to put a non-drinking, sober driver at the top of your Super Bowl checklist.''

"Even though celebrations will look a little different this year, we all know that many socially distanced gatherings will still involve alcohol, and in some cases, other drugs,'' Rillera said.

"So let's be proactive, and get the message out to ensure that our loved ones make it home safe and sound.''

A study of 2,000 consumers who plan to watch CBS' Super Bowl LV telecast conducted last month by the computer technology corporation Oracle found the 19% of people surveyed plan to drink more on Super Bowl Sunday than previous years, 16% simply plan to eat and drink everything in sight," and 8% plan to drink a lot more.

City News Service contributed to this report.