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Health experts: Contact tracing at Super Bowl events "extremely difficult"

Super Bowl COVID
Posted at 6:06 PM, Jan 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-29 18:06:33-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Public health leaders in Tampa Bay are calling attention to just how difficult contact tracing will be surrounding the Super Bowl and other events.

Michael Teng, at USF’S School of Medicine had a particular word to describe it: “I was like wow this is going to be kind of a nightmare,” he explained.

With thousands of football fans expected to pack bars, restaurants and the neighborhoods outside Raymond James Stadium to celebrate Tampa’s big night in the spotlight, tracking down who may have been exposed to COVID-19 would be nearly impossible.

“They’re coming into Tampa and leaving Tampa and I just hope we can contain it as much as possible,” said Justin Beck who heads up his own contact tracing company called Contakt World.

This past season, the NFL relied heavily on contact tracing to keep players safe. 18 NFL employees were tasked with keeping tabs on which teammates tested positive for COVID-19. Players also wore smart devices on their wrists which helped determine how long they spent in close vicinity with one another.

“I really think the NFL has been extremely innovative in this field and I think the next step for the Super Bowl and next football season is extending the success from players all the way to fans,” Beck elaborated.

Beck says that would come down to NFL leaders keeping close tabs on who attends each event, how they can be contacted and those who do test positive notifying the Florida Department of Health.

“it’s going to be really really difficult,” Teng added.

Since just 22,000 fans will be allowed inside Raymond James Stadium, the bigger concerns are with private gatherings. Health leaders best advice is to choose outdoor settings, be diligent about wearing your mask and fess up if you get sick.

Tom Unnasch, a distinguished professor with the USF College of Public Health says that’s crucial after you test positive. “Try to call as many people personally as you can remember and say hey I’ve been exposed and you may want to get yourself tested,” he said.