The NFL plans to admit 22,000 fans to watch the Super Bowl in person next month, roughly one-third of whom will be health care workers. The league announced Friday that 7,500 vaccinated health care workers will be given free tickets to the Feb. 7 championship game in Tampa Bay, nfl.com reports. "These dedicated health care workers continue to put their own lives at risk to serve others, and we owe them our ongoing gratitude," Commissioner Roger Goodell said, adding, "this is also an opportunity to promote the importance of vaccination and appropriate health practices, including wearing masks in public settings." The other 14,500 fans will be paid attendance, per ESPN; Raymond James Stadium usually holds about 65,000.
The NFL consulted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Florida Health Department, and other agencies about coronavirus safety at the game. The planned protocols will affect areas including seating in pods and touchless purchases at concession stands. Most of the health care workers will come from Tampa and central Florida, though each team will send some winners to the game. All will have had both doses of vaccine. Regular-season NFL attendance came to about 1.2 million over 116 games. Goodell held a video conference with Sarasota Memorial Hospital employees to surprise them with tickets, per CNN. "I am the son of a nurse, and all of you have a very special place in my heart," he told them. (Read about this year's Super Bowl halftime show.)