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Tampa Bay health officials say Super Bowl was not a superspreader event

Tampa Bay health officials say Super Bowl was not a superspreader event

Health officials in Tampa Bay said Wednesday that last month’s Super Bowl LV was not a coronavirus superspreader event.

Michael Wiese, chief epidemiologist at the Hillsborough County Health Department, said during a live interview that there were 53 COVID-19 cases statewide linked to official Super Bowl-related events. 

Four were discovered out of state, in Illinois, Michigan, Hawaii and North Carolina. Three of the cases involved people who specifically attended the Feb. 7 showdown between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs.

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The first reported case in association with the big game was a set-up worker on Feb. 4, according to the county’s surveillance report.

However, the overall case rate and percent positivity did rise slightly in Hillsborough County, home to the Raymond James Stadium.

Between Jan. 22 and Feb. 24, there were 14,809 COVID-19 cases reported in the county, according to data released by the health department. The average daily percent positivity was 7.9 percent.

Wiese placed some of the blame for the uptick on unofficial events related to the game, such as family watch parties or those gathering indoors at packed bars and restaurants.

Thousands of people flocked the streets to celebrate the Buccaneers’ victory on home turf, many of them ignoring public health measures implemented to slow the spread of the coronavirus, like face masks.

“While we didn’t really have a lot that was associated directly with the Super Bowl, we do know that the community kind of celebrated and got together in response to the events, which did show some increase in the transmission during the weeks afterward,” Wiese said.

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Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee CEO and President Rob Higgins said that the game “featured the highest percentage of stadium capacity for any sporting event in the country since the pandemic started.”

The stadium was at roughly 38 percent capacity, amounting to 24,835 fans. Approximately 7,500 people in the crowd were vaccinated health care workers and there were 12,000 credentialed working staff and media in the stadium.

“As we’ve mentioned throughout the hosting process, there are thousands of varying decisions that go into planning and hosting a Super Bowl, especially during a pandemic,” Higgins said during the conference. “Literally every step of the journey, health and safety was the driving factor of every decision. We think the results of the health department’s surveillance summary really validate that point."

“The Super Bowl was not a superspreader,” Higgins added. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had urged fans against attending any in-person celebrations, calling on fans to watch the game at home with the people who live with them instead of hosting or attending a gathering. 

The guidance said that if fans chose to attend the game or late event, they should avoid using restroom facilities at a restaurant or other venue, especially during “high traffic times” such as halftime or immediately after the game. Fans were also advised to “avoid chanting or cheering” and to “stomp, clap, or bring hand-held noisemakers instead.”