TAMPA, Fla. — As the clock ticks closer to the Super Bowl, fans are ecstatic. ABC Action News is digging into the changes the NFL and city leaders are doing to protect fans from COVID-19, and the surprising reason a doctor says it’s not fans in the stadium that’s the biggest risk.
History was made on Sunday night in Title City, USA. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set to become the first team in NFL history to play the Super Bowl in their own home stadium. It’s no wonder fans are electrified.
But Dr. Marissa Levine, at USF Health, warns we can’t let the pandemic take a backseat.
“You know we’re all excited about it, but we may let our guard down,” she said.
Bottom line, Dr. Levine applauds the NFL and city leaders. She believes they are doing a good job with measures to decrease the spread.
In a stadium that seats more than 65,000 people, only 22,000 will be let in, and 7,500 of them will be vaccinated healthcare workers. Masks will be mandatory unless you are eating or drinking. There will be podded seating and cashless transactions. Ticket-holders will also have to agree to a safety pledge that they will not show up if they feel sick. Even the NFL Super Bowl Experience in downtown Tampa will be socially distanced and have limited capacity.
“We want everyone to come here healthy and to go back home healthy. The only people we want disappointed are the Kansas City Chiefs because we are going to win the Super Bowl,” said Tampa Mayor Jane Castor during a Monday news conference.
While there is no such thing as a risk-free Super Bowl, Doctor Levine says she’s less worried about what happens in the stadium than out.
She calls images of the crowds that gathered outside Raymond James Stadium Sunday night following the win against the Green Bay Packers ’concerning.’
She also fears between travelers, tailgating and large groups congregating at bars, we could head toward an outbreak.
“I hate to pour cold water on everything, but if we let our guard down now, we run the risk of another surge,” she said. “I’m particularly concerned about that because of the additional variants that are out of this virus, which seem to be more contagious.”
Dr. Levine advises you celebrate in small groups, preferably with people you live with, and do it outside. Remember to keep your distance and wear a face mask if you can’t.