Thousands of health care workers are getting free tickets to the Super Bowl, courtesy of the NFL. The league's commissioner, Roger Goodell, announced Friday that 7,500 vaccinated healthcare workersto the annual championship game as a thank you for their service during the .
"These dedicated health care workers continue to put their own lives at risk to serve others, and we owe them our ongoing gratitude," Goodell said in a news release. "This is also an opportunity to promote the importance of vaccination and appropriate health practices, including wearing masks in public settings."
All of the health care workers invited will have received both doses of the coronavirus vaccine, according to the league. Most will be invited to work at health care facilities in Tampa and central Florida, though all 32 NFL clubs will select a handful of health care workers from their own communities for an all-expense-paid trip to Tampa.
The NFL said it coordinated its plans for the game with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Florida Department of Health and area health facilities to be able to host fans and health care workers "in a safe and responsible way." Its safety protocols include mandatory masks, social distancing, touchless products in bathrooms and at in-stadium concessions.
The NFL — which did not operate in a bubble as the NBA did last year to protect players and staff during the pandemic — implemented daily coronavirus testing, mask-wearing and contact tracing during its season. The league had two major coronavirus outbreaks in the fall — one on the Tennessee Titans and the other on the Baltimore Ravens.
Though in-stadium crowds were limited because of the pandemic, more than 1.2 million fans total attended 116 regular season and playoff games, the league said. On top of the 7,500 health care workers, an additional 14,500 fans will be allowed into the stadium to watch the Super Bowl. Raymond James Stadium can seat between 65,000 and 75,000 people, according to its website.