It was a heartbreaking Super Bowl loss for San Francisco 49ers fans, but it also may have been a blessing in disguise for the city's residents. Had the team not lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, they would have won, prompting a celebration with a huge victory parade.
Some experts now believe the Bay Area avoided becoming a COVID-19 hotspot as a result of the loss.
"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," said Dr. Niraj Sehgal, a professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco and co-leader of UCSF’s COVID-19 command center. His comments came on a Zoom call the school shared on YouTube.
Sehgal said that the would-be parade would have likely caused widespread transmission in the Bay Area.
The game was close, with Chief's quarterback Patrick Mahomes rallying the team to victory in the last 7 minutes of the game. Three days later, fans flooded the streets of Kansas City for their parade. The city hadn't been with COVID-19 and it emerged relatively unscathed.
But the Bay Area was one of the first places in the U.S. to get hit with an outbreak of the virus and also the first to enact a stay-at-home order on March 17. Any type of public gatherings could have added fuel to the fire.