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Wild Super Bowl celebrations spark COVID superspreader concerns

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Posted at 10:44 PM, Feb 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-08 23:13:48-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa’s Super Bowl celebrations are sparking concerns that the city will soon see a spike in coronavirus cases.

Tens of thousands of fans partied across the city in popular bar and entertainment areas like SoHo, Ybor City, downtown and outside of Raymond James Stadium.

Videos taken by ABC Action News and hundreds more shared on social media show hoards of fans partying into the morning, packing bar districts without masks.

"I’m pretty worried," said Dr. Marissa Levine with USF Health. "I don’t have a crystal ball, but these conditions are ripe for transmission of COVID."

Celebratory scenes from Sunday night sparked critical headlines across the country from outlets like The Washington Post, ABC News and The New York Times.

"In all likelihood, there were a number of people in that crowd who maybe didn’t know they had COVID but are asymptomatic carriers and could spread it," warned Dr. Levine. "If you’re in close quarters not wearing a mask and talking loudly or screaming, that’s considered a high-risk event for COVID transmission."

A City of Tampa executive order mandates everyone to wear a mask outdoors in entertainment areas like Ybor City, SoHo, downtown and outside the stadium.

Despite that, revelers partied while crammed together without worry of enforcement by police or city officials.

On Monday, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor placed some of the blame on news outlets for selectively reporting on reckless behavior.

Castor tried to put a positive spin on the negative attention.

"I’m proud to say that the majority of individuals that I saw out and about enjoying the festivities associated with the Super Bowl were complying," said Castor. "They understood their level of personal responsibility and they were doing the right thing."

Heightened concerns of a coronavirus surge are prompting some to question plans for an official Super Bowl celebration.

Health experts recommend waiting to see if Sunday night’s celebration results in a spike of coronavirus cases.

"We may pay the price. I hope we don’t," said Dr. Levine. "I hope that we can just enjoy this and move on."