Mayors explain plan to keep Super Bowl from being super-spreader

As the Buccaneers come home to play in the Super Bowl, preventing the event from becoming a COVID super-spreader event is the top priority, organizers and community leaders said Monday.

During a news conference with the mayors of Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, officials tried to reassure the public that there is a top-notch safety plan in place.

"We are again making sure that we show a great time to all the individuals that are coming to visit, but making sure that it is a safe event," said Tampa Mayor Jane Castor. "Safety and well-being of our visitors is number one and we're going to do everything in our power to ensure that they are safe."

The NFL has established some new guidelines for the big game: Capacity for the Super Bowl has been set at 22,000 fans, which is roughly a-third of what Raymond James Stadium can hold. Of those fans, 7,500 will be vaccinated frontline workers who have been invited by the NFL to the game. The league will also hand out masks and hand sanitizer.

At larger events, like the NFL Experience, fan safety managers will be trying to make sure people are socially distancing and wearing masks.

"I think they're doing what they can to minimize the chances that we'll actually end up with a super-spreader type of event," said Dr. Thomas Unnasch, a USF Health professor.

22,000 fans allowed in stands for Super Bowl LV, including 7,500 health care workers

The NFL plans to allow 22,000 fans to attend Super Bowl LV next month, 7,500 of whom are vaccinated health care workers. That’s about one-third of what Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium normally holds.

Dr. Unnasch said his bigger concerns are large Super Bowl parties, especially with the Bucs playing in the game, and big crowds at bars, clubs and restaurants.

"There will be a risk," Unnasch warned. "People should really be careful masks to wear masks if they're going to be in large crowded groups, whether that's indoors or outdoors and they should practice social distancing as much as possible."

According the city leaders, residents and visitors also need to be sure to adhere to the communities' well-established COVID-19 regulations, including mask use.

If they do, St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman is convinced the two-week experience will be a success.

"Spend an entire week here. Or two weeks, for that matter here. Come on down right away. First and foremost, you're going to be coming to an area that takes COVID safety and dealing with this pandemic seriously," Kriseman said.

If the Super Bowl does lead to an increase in cases, Dr. Unnasch believes the spike would happen one to two weeks after the event, similar to what communities saw following the holiday season.