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Doctors: New Year's Eve celebrations in Tampa will drive cases up

High levels of community spread have bumped up the infection rate in Hillsborough County to 13.5 percent. Scientists say large crowds should be prevented.

TAMPA, Fla — Trash littering Ybor City's sidewalks shows the aftermath of New Year's Eve celebrations. 

On Thursday night, large crowds counted down to 2021. Videos posted on Snapchat show COVID-19 measures went out the door. Very little masks in sight and no social distancing.

That's exactly what infectious disease experts said would happen a day before the New Year. 

"This shows the issue of pandemic fatigue. People said, 'Okay, I'm just done. I'm not wearing my mask anymore and I'm not doing this social distancing. I miss my family and these sort of things," USF Public Health's Dr. Jill Roberts said.

With coronavirus cases peaking on the last day of 2020, the infectious disease expert warned these actions will have repercussions.

"It's just not time for that. It's really, really dangerous to do that," Roberts said.

High levels of community spread have bumped up the infection rate in Hillsborough County to 13.5 percent. Scientists say crowds like these should be prevented.

"This is when people get together, they take their masks off, it doesn't take much. We've missed out on messaging. It's not even messaging really, it's people actually taking it seriously," USF Public Health's Dr. Michael Teng said. 

The virologist says people in Tampa Bay weren't as careful as they should've been for Christmas and New Year's Eve.

"We're going to probably see another spike in cases in January. Death is a lagging indicator, so three weeks after that spike we'll see, there'll be more deaths," Teng said.

Tampa Police officers were on scene Thursday night. We reached out to the mayor's office to ask about the large crowds. A spokesperson referred us to the Tampa Police Department who sent the following statement:

"Leading up to New Year’s Eve, the Tampa Police Department worked in partnership with City of Tampa Code Enforcement to educate business owners regarding face-covering requirements put in place by the city to slow the spread of Covid-19. (www.tampa.gov/emergency-management/covid-19/face-covering)

We are pleased that the majority of our residents and businesses take active roles to help slow the spread of Covid-19. We are also aware of video, taken as entertainment establishments were beginning to close, that shows individuals in the street not wearing masks as they prepared to head home. We encourage these individuals to review CDC guidelines and keep up to date on Covid-19 information so they, too, can help slow the spread. (www.tampa.gov/Covid-19)

As we enter the new year, Tampa Police will continue to assist Tampa Code Enforcement in addressing this ongoing public health safety concern."

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