Many Americans will likely want to celebrate this Sunday's Super Bowl as they have in previous years, with large, snack-filled watch parties. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president's chief medical adviser and the nation's top infectious disease official, is urging people to break from tradition to prevent a potential spike in COVID-19.
In appearances on NBC's Today and ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday morning - and again at a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing - Fauci implored people to limit their gatherings to household members only.
"You don't want parties with people that you haven't had much contact with, you just don't know if they're infected," he told Good Morning America. "So as difficult as that is, at least this time around, just lay low and cool it."
While acknowledging that the Super Bowl is not officially a national holiday, Fauci on Today compared it to other major events that have prompted upticks in the country's COVID-19 case count, like Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve.
"Every time we do have something like this, there always is a spike," he said, adding that "now is not the time" for mixed-household gatherings.
Fauci's advice echoes that of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which released updated guidance last week on attending gatherings, including Super Bowl parties, saying the safest way to watch the event is at home with immediate family.
Both Fauci and the CDC offered tips for any in-person spectators planning to watch the game from the stands of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.: namely, wear masks at all times and practice physical distancing.
The venue is set to be filled at about one-third of its capacity on Sunday, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face off against the Kansas City Chiefs. The NFL has invited some 7,500 vaccinated health care workers to attend the game, alongside about 14,500 fans.
When asked by NBC's Savannah Guthrie whom he's expecting to win, Fauci, no stranger to controversy, laughed and declined to comment: "I don't want to go there, Savannah."