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B.C. bars warned of inspection blitz amid fears of superspreader Super Bowl

Click to play video 'COVID-19 concerns: will Super Bowl gatherings become super spreaders?' COVID-19 concerns: will Super Bowl gatherings become super spreaders?
B.C. health officials are pleading with the public to heed pandemic restrictions this Super Bowl Sunday, so game-day doesn't turn into a super spreader event. Paul Johnson reports – Feb 6, 2021

B.C. health officials say they’ll be keeping an eagle eye on the province’s bars and restaurants, as the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers clash in Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Pubs and sports bars have been allowed to stay open in B.C. through most of the pandemic, provided they have COVID-19 safety plans in place, which require tables to be two metres apart, limit groups to six people and ban mingling and self-service of liquor.

Read more: Coronavirus: B.C.’s ban on social gatherings and events extended until further notice

On Monday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province was stepping up enforcement — but also called on the public to respect the spirit of the rules.

“WorkSafeBC and our environmental health inspectors will be stepping up their monitoring and enforcement,” she said.

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“Hold off on the Super Bowl celebrations this year — you should not be planning — whether it’s at home (or) in a bar or restaurant — viewings of the Super Bowl. If we are not able to control (transmission) and start seeing spread again, we can undo all the good work that we have done.”

Click to play video 'Super Bowl ads expected to have very different vibe this year' Super Bowl ads expected to have very different vibe this year
Super Bowl ads expected to have very different vibe this year – Feb 6, 2021

WorkSafeBC issued a statement of its own, warning businesses that inspectors would be doing spot checks on Sunday.

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The agency said it expected COVID-19 safety plans to be up to date and followed “to the letter.”

Jeff Guignard, executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees, told Global News that people could absolutely have a safe time watching the game in a bar or pub — so long as they follow the rules.

Read more: B.C. reports whopping 547 COVID-19 cases in Whistler so far this year

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“At the end of the day, we will keep you safe because we are operating under the most stringent public health protocols ever issued for our industry,” he said.

“We’ve been doing this for 10 or 11 months now, we’re really good at it. Most of the cases have been coming from home gatherings.”

Guignard said while the industry would be screening the game, it would be unlike the major events of previous years, which he said were the second-largest party day of the year in B.C. behind St. Patrick’s Day.

Click to play video 'B.C. premier: No Super Bowl parties this year' B.C. premier: No Super Bowl parties this year
B.C. premier: No Super Bowl parties this year – Feb 2, 2021

Industry members will be following health orders, including a ban on congregating and mingling, and are not promoting parties or having special events, he said.

On Friday, Henry extended the province’s COVID-19 restrictions indefinitely, saying British Columbia’s case trajectory was moving in the right direction, but the possibility of a third wave remained.

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About 90 per cent of B.C.’s 69,716 total cases have recovered, while 1,246 people have died.