The crowd at Super Bowl LV won’t be anything near the numbers the NFL has become accustomed to at the biggest game of the year, but among the 25,000 fans who will be in attendance, 7,500 of them will be vaccinated healthcare workers, there as the guests of the NFL to thank and honor them for their service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Four of those 7,500 will be employees of UPMC hospitals in Pittsburgh, as the league partnered with the Steelers and each of the other 31 NFL clubs to select four vaccinated healthcare workers from their communities to be rewarded with an all-expense paid trip to attend the game on Sunday, Feb. 7.
All the vaccinated workers will follow the strict COVID-19 protocols the league has in place for the game, which includes mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing.
“These dedicated health care workers continue to put their own lives at risk to serve others, and we owe them our ongoing gratitude,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement. “We hope in a small way that this initiative will inspire our country and recognize these true American heroes. This is also an opportunity to promote the importance of vaccination and appropriate health practices, including wearing masks in public settings.”
In January, the NFL and the Steelers surprised four frontline workers who were nominated by co-workers for the trip, including Registered Nurse Justin Gossett (UPMC Mercy), Director of Maintenance and Engineering Pat Hogan (UPMC Shadyside), Respiratory Team Member Marcus Paxton (UPMC Mercy) and Director of Respiratory Care Services Breen Smith (UPMC Shadyside).
The exciting news was shared with the winners by Hall of Fame center Dermontti Dawson via a video message.
“We are so thankful for what you have done to care for those with COVID-19 in the Pittsburgh community over the past year,” said Dawson in the messages. “As a very special thank you, on behalf of the Steelers and the National Football League, we are so happy send you on an all-expense paid trip to Super Bowl LV in Tampa.”
The reaction from the four winners was shock, excitement and just pure joy.