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Tampa Bay Super Bowl not a COVID 'super spreader,' officials say, refuting media panic

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Media panic over the Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, Florida, being a “super spreader” coronavirus event didn’t pan out, as officials announced Wednesday just a few dozen COVID-19 cases associated with the big game.

“The Super Bowl was not a super-spreader,” Super Bowl LV Host Committee head Rob Higgins said.

Hillsborough County officials announced only 53 COVID-19 cases statewide were found to be associated with official Super Bowl events, according to The Tampa Bay Times. There were four other cases found outside Florida.

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers became the first NFL team to win a Super Bowl played in their home stadium, routing the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 in Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7.

Scenes of fans gathering and celebrating before and after the game drew scolding tones from news outlets and reporters at the time.

Apparently distressed by Bucs supporters reveling before the game by drinking and not wearing masks, CNN reporter Randi Kaye told viewers she had asked Tampa police what they could do about the situation and quoted law enforcement as being “very disappointed.” 

“Looks like it’s shaping up to be a super spreader after party down in Florida,” CBS reporter David Begnaud tweeted, with a video of Bucs fans celebrating the win.

“Maskless revelers celebrate Buccaneers’ Super Bowl win. What could possibly go wrong?” the Los Angeles Times asked in a headline.

“Tampa’s Maskless Super Bowl Celebration Leads To Super Spreader Fears,” HuffPost wrote.

“The scene of thousands of fans tightly packed into the city’s streets and outside Raymond James Stadium represented an alternate universe from the steady warnings by the nation’s top health officials about the risks of the Super Bowl becoming a superspreader event,” the New York Times reported.

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“Thousands of maskless Tampa fans flooded the streets, celebrating the Super Bowl win while risking a superspreader event,” the Washington Post wrote.

Former President Donald Trump’s outspoken liberal niece Mary Trump said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, R., should be charged with “crimes against humanity” because of the partying scenes.

In the end, however, the fears were misplaced.

For his part, DeSantis shot down media questions about the celebrations in the days after Tampa Bay’s victory, recalling how the mainstream media struck a different tone on protests last spring and summer or when crowds gathered to celebrate President Biden’s election win. 

“The media is worried about that, obviously, you guys really love that,” DeSantis said. “You don’t care as much if it’s a quote ‘peaceful protest,’ then it’s fine. You don’t care as much if they’re celebrating a Biden election. You only care about it if it’s people you don’t like. I’m a Bucs fan. I’m damn proud of what they did on Sunday night.” 

More than 280,000 fans took part in Super Bowl-related activities, Higgins said, touting that about one in 4,700 tested positive for COVID-19 afterward.

“We identified very low numbers of COVID directly associated with any of these Super Bowl-associated events,” chief county epidemiologist Michael Wiese said.

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Hillsborough County is the fourth-largest in Florida with a population of about 1.5 million. Wiese did say there was a slightly higher positivity rate in the community that he attributed to communal celebrations, family gatherings, and restaurants and bars hosting Super Bowl events.

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