49ers Super Bowl loss amid coronavirus outbreak likely saved lives, experts say

Loss prevented parade in San Francisco just as COVID-19 was taking root in city

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The San Francisco 49ers’ devastating loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl in February prevented a championship parade in the densely packed city that could have spread COVID-19 in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, according to health experts.

As the Chiefs put the finishing touches on their 31-20 victory on Feb. 2, doctors at the University of California-San Francisco were already treating patients diagnosed with COVID-19, the deadly illness caused by coronavirus. Within weeks of the game, San Francisco was one of countless U.S. cities under shelter-in-place orders to slow the pandemic’s spread.

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A 49ers win would have resulted in a Super Bowl parade that would have drawn anywhere from 500,000 to 1.5 million people to the streets of San Francisco just as coronavirus was taking root in the city, local health experts told the Wall Street Journal. Parades are one of many forms of mass gatherings currently banned in U.S. cities due to their role in the highly contagious disease.

“It is certainly hard to imagine a more high-risk situation,” Dr. Niraj Sehgal, head of UCSF’s COVID-19 command center, told the Wall Street Journal.

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Santa Clara County, home to the 49ers, the Golden State Warriors and several other U.S. sports franchises, was among the first U.S. locales to order the postponement of mass gatherings, including sporting events. The city of San Francisco has been under lockdown since March 17.

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As of Tuesday afternoon, San Francisco has reported 872 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 14 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University database.

Kansas City held its Super Bowl parade on Feb. 5. The city did not report its first confirmed case of COVID-19 until March 18, when San Francisco was already sheltering in place.

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