This Could Become the Next Major Superspreader Event, Experts Warn

Hordes of maskless individuals here have officials concerned that a spike in cases could soon follow.

In the lead up to the Super Bowl, the nation's top health officials, including Anthony Fauci, MD, were warning that small indoor watch parties could lead to a spike in COVID cases. And while living room get-togethers could end up putting a dent in the current downward trend of infections in the U.S., there's now concern that the biggest gathering of all could have dire consequences. Local officials are concerned that public Super Bowl celebrations in Tampa—where the home team, the Buccaneers, beat the Kansas City Chiefs—could become the next major COVID superspreader event. Read on to see why this could cause major problems for Florida and beyond, and for more on the latest from the White House chief COVID adviser, check out Dr. Fauci Says You Should Be Able to Do This One Thing by April.

The weekend-long celebration created public health risks.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' fans celebrate their victory outside Raymond James Stadium after winning the Super Bowl LV, in Tampa, Florida, United States on February 07, 2021.
Eva Marie Uzcategui Trinkl/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

This weekend, Tampa found itself in the historically unique position of being the first city to ever victoriously host their home team for the Super Bowl. And while the unprecedented home-field advantage would usually be a reason to celebrate, local fans created crowded scenes throughout the city all weekend long in defiance of health officials' warnings—especially once the Buccaneers had claimed the trophy.

Throngs of the Buccaneers' supporters took to the streets to cheer and chant—many of whom were maskless, even while entering crowded local bars and nightclubs, The Washington Post reports. "You've got venues that are operating at 100 percent capacity, stuffing their places," local bar owner Tom DeGeorge told local ABC affiliate WFTS. "You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see a line that's two blocks long and know there's going to a dance floor inside. Shut them down." And for more on what you shouldn't be doing these days, even if you are vaccinated, check out Don't Go to This One Place After Getting Vaccinated, Doctors Warn.

Officials warned citizens ahead of time there could be penalties.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' fans celebrate their victory after winning the Super Bowl LV, in Tampa, Florida, United States on February 08, 2021
Eva Marie Uzcategui Trinkl/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Despite the outcome, officials repeatedly cautioned citizens to behave responsibly leading up to the night's festivities. "We've done so well in putting on a safe Super Bowl, when we do win tonight, I just want to keep safety at the forefront of everyone's minds," Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said in a news conference not long before the game's kickoff, according to The Tampa Bay Times. "Celebrate, but do it safely. Simply wear a mask."

Castor's warning came days after she extended a municipal mask mandate that covers some of the city's most popular nightlife and entertainment districts, including the Riverwalk, Ybor City, and the SoHo district. But while violations of the mandate potentially came with a fine up to $450, local law enforcement bristled at the idea of becoming "mask police," with Tampa police chief Brian Dugan saying he hoped "people will just kind of work with us when it comes to the mask compliance." And for the latest COVID news sent right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

The new U.K. variant is already on the rise in Florida.

Two healthcare workers wearing full protective gear care for an intubated patient in the ICU who is suffering from COVID.

The elevated concerns also come in the face of Florida's increasing battle with the more contagious strain of COVID from the U.K. The Sunshine State is already somewhat of a hotbed for the strain, home to the most reported cases of the new variant nationwide, USA Today reports. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 33 states have reported cases of the U.K. strain, with 690 total, as of Feb. 8—Florida has 201 of those cases. And for the other state in a similar situation, check out The States That Are "At Risk of Being Overrun" by the New COVID Strain.

It's important to keep up everyday precautions post-Super Bowl.

coronavirus outbreak - woman wash hands with surgical mask .

Officials warned that keeping up with the same basic safety measures that have been in place since the early days of the pandemic are now more important than ever. "I would caution everybody: please remember to continue to practice those behaviors and not get COVID fatigue," Melissa Clarke, MD, a member of the District of Columbia's advisory committee on vaccine distribution, told CNN on Feb. 7 while discussing the Super Bowl gatherings. "Continue to mask, continue to distance, continue to avoid crowds." And for more on how hard the pandemic is hitting where you live, check out This Is How Bad the COVID Outbreak Is in Your State.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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