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Despite precautions, Super Bowl crowds increase risk of COVID-19 across Tampa Bay

A doctor warns not to drink and watch the Super Bowl at a crowded bar or eat a restaurant with so many out-of-towners.

TAMPA, Fla — Tampa Bay is buzzing with excitement with the big game just a week away.

If you've been out, you've probably seen a little more traffic and a lot more Buccaneers jerseys (maybe Chiefs, too) around town. Thousands of people are traveling to the Tampa Bay area just to be a part of Super Bowl LV experiences. 

While it's exciting to have so many visitors to beautiful Tampa Bay, we are still in the midst of a pandemic.

"The thousands of people coming into town, they're going to be bringing in whatever they have from wherever they're coming from," said Dr. Jay Wolfson, the Senior Associate Dean for Health Policy and Practice at the Morsani College of Medicine at the University of South Florida. 

The influx of visitors during winter, when the flu is spreading, paired with the COVID-19 pandemic poses a risk of increased infection. While the NFL and official Super Bowl events have been taking incredible cautionary measures to mitigate the spread of any illnesses by limiting capacity, handing out masks and hand sanitizer and making experiences reservation-only, the risk still remains within the Bay area.

"It's what happens before and after that is going to be of concern where people are going to be meeting and partying and communing in groups inside and outside," Wolfson said.

He warns against going to drink or watch the game at crowded bars or eating inside at restaurants that will be a lot busier with so many out of towners. 

"Those of us that live here, we just need to be extra careful right now," Wolfson said. If you want to avoid the excitement of the Super Bowl and its events, avoid downtown Tampa and areas around Raymond James Stadium.

Explore a beach or a park you haven't been to before or head to a neighboring city in the Bay area you haven't been to in a while. Head down to Fort DeSoto, cruise to Sarasota or talk a walk around Lakeland.

If you are around crowds or big groups because of the Super Bowl, make sure to always wear a mask, socially distance yourself as best you can and wash your hands with warm water and soap when you can.

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