The 49ers loss on Super Bowl LIV may have saved many lives.
While Super Bowl LIV was taking place in Miami’s Sun Life Stadium, some doctors were starting to deal with the San Francisco’s first cases of coronavirus. Medical experts in the country had only identified a few cases of the virus in the U.S. by Feb. 2 — the day of the Super Bowl —, Axios reports, but the Santa Clara and San Benito County in California reported its second case that morning, painting an early sketch of what all this mess and misinformation would turn out to be. As of today, the Bay Area has reported more than 5,300 cases and 146 deaths from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University data, with San Francisco now considered the model for containing the virus early in the U.S. and flattening the curve of patients admitted to emergency rooms, per Axios.
The way this outbreak has played out convinced Dr. Niraj Sehgal of making a fascinating argument amid the worsening condition across the country: Had the San Francisco 49ers beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the last Super Bowl, the novel Coronavirus would have likely experienced a widespread — and much worse — transmission if San Francisco had held a big, crowded Super Bowl parade. Dr. Niraj Sehgal is a professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco and co-leader of UCSF’s COVID-19 command center.
“It’s a date that I will never forget, because the Super Bowl Sunday was actually the night that we stood up formally, our command center,” Sehgal said. “People may not remember this that well, but Super Bowl weekend, in some ways, with apologies to the 49ers’ fans, the gift we may have been given was the 49ers losing (…) And the reason for that is another — again, it’s funny to call it a gift — the gift of [having] two of the first patients in the country that required hospitalization.”
“It may go down in the annals as being a brutal sports loss, but one that may have saved lives,” added Bob Wachter, the chair of UCSF’s department of medicine, to the Wall Street Journal.
San Francisco enacted a stay-at-home order on March 17 to slow the virus when they had 13 COVID-19 related deaths, according to The Atlantic. Now, California has extended the order to May 1. As for Kansas City, the city with the winning team, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported Monday that the state has reached 4,388 cases of COVID19 and suffered 114 deaths.
A danger called sports
Sports have been pointed out as one of the many events that unleashed the COVID-19 outbreak across Europe. For soccer and the Italian city of Bergamo, the Champions League soccer clash between Atalanta and Valencia held in Milan on February 19, which received nearly 2,500 Spanish fans of club Valencia, has been called “Game Zero” and one of the biggest reasons why Bergamo has become one of the epicenters of the COVID pandemic, and why 35% of Valencia’s team became infected. At about that same time in Valencia, a journalist who traveled to report on the match became the second person infected in the region, and it didn’t take long before people who were in contact with him also had the virus.
“I’m sure that 40,000 people hugging and kissing each other while standing a centimeter apart — four times, because Atalanta scored four goals (the final result was 4-1) — was definitely a huge accelerator for contagion,” Luca Lorini, the head of the intensive care unit at the Pope John XXIII hospital in Bergamo, told The Associated Press.
You can listen here to Dr. Niraj Sehgal and other UCSF experts describe the evolving shape of the pandemic, the San Francisco experience, and how digital innovation has influenced the UCSF approach.