TAMPA, Fla. — It was a thrilling night for Bucs fans who took to the streets to celebrate the team’s Super Bowl berth.
But a local woman is sounding the alarm about what she saw, offering her own loss as a lesson in protecting yourself and others from the coronavirus.
“Just seeing all these people just close together without masks, without social distancing,” recalls Erica Nunery.
Nunery was driving to her West Tampa home Sunday night when she drove past the cheering crowds outside Raymond James Stadium.
“It was a shock and awe feeling because I was just putting a beloved family member to rest because of this virus,” Nunery said.
On Sunday night, Nunery had said her final goodbye to her godfather, her uncle Julio, who died after a two-week fight with the coronavirus.
She describes seeing the crowd of Bucs fans, many of them without masks, as a gut-punch.
“It kind of felt like a slap in the face, like to the families who have lost someone, kind of like our hurt doesn’t matter.”
Health experts predict a safe Super Bowl environment inside Raymond James Stadium, but they warn that crowded activities outside could quickly turn into super spreader events.
Mayor Jane Castor described the Sunday night crowds who did not stay socially distant as frustrating.
Castor said city officials and police will not focus on enforcing CDC guidelines during Super Bowl events but are counting on people self-regulating and practicing personal responsibility.
“We also have the ability to host all of these events outdoors, and that raises the safety as well,” Castor said. “Just being outside with the breeze blowing, but that doesn’t negate the need for a mask.”
Nunery, a longtime Bucs fan herself, said she looks forward to celebrating a big win on Super Bowl Sunday but hopes fans will act responsibly.
“The last thing you want to do is celebrate on Super Bowl Sunday and a week later end up in the hospital or lose a loved one.”