Public health experts give guidance on New Year's celebrations as events adapt for COVID-19 crisis

Posted at 6:14 PM, Dec 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-28 18:14:05-05

TAMPA, Fla. — New Year’s celebrations this week likely won’t look the same as years past. However you decide to ring in the New Year, public health experts want you to do it as safely as possible.

Across the Tampa Bay area, many events aren’t happening because of COVID-19, like the fireworks celebration on Clearwater Beach and Tampa’s New Yarrgh’s Eve Booty Drop.

“We decided to shift gears and take on a totally different type of event,” said Jamie McWade, Executive Director of First Night St. Pete.

McWade says instead of a downtown, in-person event, First Night St. Pete will be virtual this year. She says the first hour of the three-hour program will be dedicated to kids, while the remainder will be a family-friendly performance.

“There’s something for everyone,” said McWade. “There’s a lot of exciting material, and we put together a very professional looking event, so I think, all in all, it’s like watching a concert safely from your home.”

The CDC says the safest way to celebrate the New Year is at home with people you live with or virtually with family and friends. The CDC reminds people that travel and gatherings with people who don’t live with you can increase your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19.

USF Health’s Dr. Marissa Levine points to widespread community transmission right now and puts your potential risk into perspective.

“If you’re going to celebrate with a group of 10 people, right now given what’s going on in our community, the risk that one of those people has COVID is about 20%, but if you increase that to 50 people, the risk is about 60% to 70%,” said Levine.

If you choose to go to a New Year’s celebration, Levine recommends you wear a mask, social distance and be outdoors if possible. The CDC also suggests you avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.

“We have a light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel still is pretty long, and I think right now if we can get people to keep their guard up, we can expect that sometime in 2021, we’ll start to see our lives turn to the way that we’d like them to be, but we’re not there yet,” said Dr. Levine.

Some in-person events are still planned in the Tampa Bay area, like an outdoor celebration at Armature Works. That event will be held at less than 50% capacity on top of requiring tickets and masks. Armature Works says this event is sold out. It says a portion of all ticket sales will be donated to Feeding Tampa Bay to help those in need in the Tampa Bay area.

McWade hopes they’ll be back to normal next year to ring in 2022.

“I think everyone is just kind of itching to get outside. We’re looking for something positive to do,” said McWade. “We’re all looking for messages of hope, and I think next year is going to be that for us as long as the pandemic subsides.”

You can find more information on First Night St. Pete here.