TAMPA, Fla. — Bucs fans had themselves an offseason to remember after getting Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, but now they can't be there to cheer them on.
"Getting Brady you know, that was the biggest thing! Just the excitement and the anticipation to have this year. Then just thinking six months ago that COVID would be done by now," season ticket holder Daniel Ossenfort said.
But, coronavirus still hasn't gone away, leading the Bucs to announce Raymond James Stadium will be empty of fans until at least mid-October.
An email sent to Ossenfort notified him that no fans would be allowed in the stands for the first two home games of the season. The team said public health is the top priority.
"It's definitely a disappointment that we won't be able to be there, I just hope they make it up to those of us who have held tickets for years," Ossenfort said.
For now, local officials haven't given the team the go-ahead to welcome fans back. Dr. Jay Wolfson with USF Public Health says the team made the right decision.
"I don't think we're that at that point just yet and I think the Bucs' comment reflects that. Even though we've been pushing the curve down, we're still at what's considered to be epidemic levels," Wolfson said.
Raymond James holds more than 65,000 fans. Per Gov. Ron DeSantis' reopening plans, the stadium is allowed to seat fans at 50 percent capacity. Health officials say that's still too much.
"They'll probably see between 10 and 15,000 people starting off, and there'll be selective advanced reservations. I doubt that they'll have many walk-ins unless there are special arrangements and there will be clear advanced notices of what the rules are. The rules will be very clear," Wolfson said.
A few hours away at Hard Rock Stadium, the Miami Dolphins will host 13,000 fans for the home opener in late September.
"Perhaps that's okay even though the Miami area has been harder hit and has a higher rate of disease than we do. We will learn as we go, this is a natural experiment," Wolfson said.
For now, the soonest Bucs fans could be seated for a game is October 18 when the team hosts the Green Bay Packers. Ossenfort says if allowed, he'll be there.
"I would not have a fear to go out to a game or have a fear to go out in public or have a fear to do things. I can't live my life in a bubble just because of COVID," he said.
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