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Vendors, fans at Tampa Bay Comic Convention excited to be back despite ongoing pandemic

It's one of the first large indoor events held since the CDC announced new guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19.

TAMPA, Fla. — Under recently updated CDC guidelines, all vaccinated people are recommended to wear a mask when indoors in areas of high transmission rates. Mask wearing always has been asked of those who are unvaccinated. 

While masks aren't required at the Tampa Bay Comic Convention at the Tampa Convention Center, it's one of the first big events in the Tampa Bay area since the updated guidelines.

The event had to be canceled last year because of COVID-19. This year, comic fans rushed in as the doors opened at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Vendors told 10 Tampa Bay they were given a mask before the convention began but were not required to wear it. 

Some masks were worn, the costume kind and the pandemic kind. Guests and vendors alike said they felt comfortable attending an indoor event with a large number of people. 

"With getting vaccinated and social distancing with the booth sizes, I feel pretty comfortable," said Kyle Passeneau, a vendor at the event. "I'm not shaking hands with anybody. I have hand sanitizer here."

Tiffany Nunez, another vendor at the event, has set up a table at the Tampa Bay Comic Convention for years. She said this year, the booths were more spaced out.

"At least from my experience, in years past, the booths were a lot closer together, now they're super farther away," Nunez said.

RELATED: Delta variant symptoms similar to original COVID and can be fought with a vaccine, doctors say

Nunez had to miss seven comic convention events last year because of COVID cancellations, costing her $25,000-$30,000. Although the pandemic has not yet ended, she said she's glad to be able to set up her booth, and came prepared. 

"I actually bring sanitizer everywhere I go and I sanitize after every transaction," Nunez said.

10 Tampa Bay reached out to the organizers of the event, who said in a statement, "we highly encourage the use of facial masks while indoors. We want to be able to keep each other as safe as possible. There are also several hand sanitizing stations located all around the convention hall for everyone's use."

Attendees are told on the event's website that "by visiting Tampa Bay Comic Convention you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and voluntarily agree to Temperature Screenings."

For the fans that choose to come out and mask up, they hope you do your part, too. 

"We've been doing the whole mask thing since it started," said Ulysses Fulton, a comic fan. "My wife is a nurse, so it's nothing that irritates or bothers us. There are protocols, things that are supposed to be put in place, to keep everyone safe. Let's follow the guidelines and do what they ask. There's nothing hard about it."

The Comic Convention continues Sunday at the Tampa Convention Center. The exhibit hall opens at 9 a.m. 

RELATED: Florida hospitals seeing younger patients admitted with COIVD-19 compared to pandemic's start

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