Other antics ensued, including hundreds gathering around a man who climbed a tree and swaying it back and forth; pedestrians walking against traffic as cars drove by with celebrators standing through sunroofs waving team flags; and police officers getting knocked down as intoxicated patrons poured out of the bars by the thousands.
Throughout Tampa this weekend, hordes of football fans crammed into bars, clogged streets and belted chants — many without masks, despite dire warnings from public health experts that the Super Bowl could become a superspreader event.
In the days leading up to football’s biggest night, Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, urged Americans to stay home and “just lay low and cool it.” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor (D) made a video asking fans to cover their faces, after she updated the city’s mask mandate to include all outdoor areas used for Super Bowl events and gatherings.
In a news conference Sunday, Castor also pleaded with fans to act responsibly if the Buccaneers won, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
“Well, we’ve done so well in putting on a safe Super Bowl, when we do win tonight, I just want to keep safety at the forefront of everyone’s minds,” she said. “Celebrate, but do it safely. Simply wear a mask.”
There have been more than 1.7 million cases of the coronavirus in Florida and more than 28,000 deaths, according to The Washington Post’s coronavirus tracker. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has battled against many restrictions, and mask mandates or occupancy restrictions throughout the state have been difficult to enforce since the governor lifted all coronavirus restrictions in September.
A report posted on the preprint server medRxiv on Sunday found that a more contagious and possibly more deadly mutation of the virus first discovered in the United Kingdom is rapidly spreading in Florida. The study said that the state has the most cases of the variant in the country.
Although hospitalizations are up, cases in Tampa have been declining. But public health experts warn that the events in Tampa over the weekend could lead to another surge.
Marissa Levine, a professor of public health practice at the University of South Florida in Tampa, told The Post that the conditions around the Super Bowl are ripe for spreading the coronavirus. Celebrations, she said, often lead to people letting their guards down and cheering in close range with others can create the “perfect conditions for transmitting covid.”
Videos flooded social media on Sunday night showing fans whooping and chanting “Tampa Bay” and Brady’s name, all tightly packed outside the stadium and on bar-lined streets in Tampa’s SoHo and Ybor City neighborhoods, according to the Times. A Times reporter estimated that tens of thousands gathered in Ybor City on Sunday night.
Police patrolled the streets, but it is unclear whether they handed out any citations for people not wearing masks. The fine could be up to $500. It is also unclear how many people were arrested amid the celebrations or if any property was damaged.
Before the Super Bowl, maskless crowds were also a common sight around Tampa. News reports showed people without face coverings standing shoulder-to-shoulder in bars on Saturday despite mandates in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties requiring all patrons in businesses to wear masks.
A four-day series of parties hosted in part by Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy at an oceanfront bar attracted thousands of partygoers. Images published on TMZ from one of the events show DJ Steve Aoki spraying champagne on a crowd of maskless partygoers.
In the days leading up to the Barstool-hosted series, James Judge, a spokesman for the event, said that all guests and staff were required to wear masks unless they were eating or drinking and that guests showing symptoms of the coronavirus would have to take a rapid test. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who are asymptomatic can still transmit the virus.
“We want to save lives. But at the same time, there has to be some sort of balanced approach where we make sure that we don’t further destroy our economy in the process,” Judge told The Post.
A party hosted by rapper 50 Cent at an airport hangar in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Friday night was crowded with barefaced concertgoers not social distancing.
The event attracted ire from St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman (D) on Twitter.
“This isn’t how we should be celebrating the Super Bowl,” Kriseman wrote. “It’s not safe or smart. It’s stupid. We’re going to take a very close look at this, and it may end up costing someone a lot more than 50 cent.”