Adventist Health is encouraging people to avoid large gatherings next weekend when Super Bowl LV kicks off.

In a news release sent out Friday morning from Adventist Health Bakersfield, Delano and Tehachapi, the health care network said its focus and emphasis is to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We know from previous holiday weekends during the pandemic that there has been an increased spread of COVID-19 following large groups of family and friend gatherings,” said Dr. Ronald Reynoso, chief medical officer for Adventist Health Bakersfield and Tehachapi. “We know people want to come together, eat and celebrate the football game that has become like a holiday for some. But, right now, it’s also important that we do so safely.”

The news release said local health care workers are hopeful that people will watch the game with those from their immediate households only.

“It is critically important that individuals act responsibly to prevent another surge. Each of us has the power to help avoid another sharp increase in cases. Just stay away from large gatherings and use healthy practices,” said David Butler, president of Adventist Health Delano.

Adventist Health also said the timing of the Super Bowl is significant because it comes in the midst of a significant local COVID-19 surge.

“If you want to have a game day party, we beg you to do it virtually,” Reynoso said. “Our team of caregivers has been through a lot over the last few months, and they need you to stay home and cheer them on.”