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Can Tampa keep Super Bowl from being a super-spreader? Times readers have thoughts!

The Tampa Bay Times asked readers what they thought about the Super Bowl at Raymond James Stadium during the coronavirus pandemic. Many responded.
Masked people walk past bars in Ybor City the week before the Super Bowl on Wednesday in Tampa.
Masked people walk past bars in Ybor City the week before the Super Bowl on Wednesday in Tampa. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Feb. 4, 2021

TAMPA — If you want to touch a nerve this week, ask people about two subjects — the Super Bowl and the coronavirus. Even better, pose the question on social media, where filters and polite conversation are often lacking.

The Tampa Bay Times did just that, and boy, did y’all engage. We asked, “What can be done to help prevent Super Bowl 55 from becoming a coronavirus super spreader event for the Tampa Bay region?” Within minutes, the answers came rolling in.

More than 500 comments were logged on Facebook. Another couple dozen came through Twitter and email.

What can be done to help prevent Super Bowl 55 from becoming a coronavirus super spreader event for the Tampa Bay region? Post your reply or email reporter Caitlin Johnston at cjohnston@tampabay.com.

Posted by Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Some trolling and political commentary followed, including Biden and Trump memes. Another thread ended with people blocking one other. Many added a laugh emoji, rarely in agreement or support.

One commenter apologized to the reporter assigned to pull it all together.

There also was thoughtful discussion. You helped us understand the range and depth of your feelings.

Most of the answers fell into two camps: 1) It’s impossible to hold Super Bowl events and not risk spreading the virus. 2) Stop worrying about coronavirus and let those who wish to celebrate enjoy the day.

Related: Will Tampa’s Super Bowl be a super spreader event? PolitiFact asks the experts

It’s the same tension between personal choice and community responsibility that has been pulling at us for nearly a year.

Here’s a sampling of what people are saying about the risks of the big event:

Stick to the recommendations

Nearly a year into this pandemic, we can all recite the COVID-19 bylaws: wear a mask, socially distance, sanitize, stay home if you’re sick, wash your hands.

Many of these basics were reiterated in the comments.

“So proud to have Tampa represent,” Jennifer Nayor-Fuehrer wrote on Facebook. “Hand out the official surgical masks, check temperatures (Busch Gardens had some kind of a thing to walk through that detects heat). Encourage everyone to have a safe and great time!”

Ultraviolet disinfectant lamps, high-powered fans and sanitizer stations were also suggested. Others wanted to see fines for those who don’t wear masks or refuse to distance.

Related: A Super Bowl conversation with Tampa’s police chief: ‘We don’t want to be the mask police’

Some, like Ivana Kajtezovic, echoed the call to follow the basics, but expressed concern that people wouldn’t follow through.

“Of course people won’t do all of this, or much of this,” Kajtezovic wrote. “To this day, a year into the pandemic, I see people wear masks below their nose.”

Alas, some couldn’t get by without a barb or two.

“It’s easier to potty train a 3 year old than it is to get adults to wear their masks correctly,” Mark Winters wrote.

Related: Coronavirus and Tampa’s Super Bowl, explained

That one garnered 79 reactions, almost all thumbs ups. One red “angry” emoji popped amid the blue.

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Go beyond the basics

Some wanted to see Tampa Bay officials step up and go beyond the basic recommendations. Not all of these are realistic at this point in time. But we like to hear where your heads are at.

To start, Brian Dino wants to overhaul traditional sports celebrations. High-fiving? Out. Hugs? Nope. Chest bumps? Get outta here.

“What I don’t get is people not being able to resist high-fiving or touching each other after a good play by their team,” Dino wrote. “It’s not that hard. Stop grabbing on each other like elementary school children. Plenty of ways to celebrate sans physical touch.”

Related: Code enforcement joins effort to ensure Super Bowl revelers wear masks

What if everyone was required to be vaccinated, others suggested, not just the health care workers who received free tickets? Or there could be rapid test stations outside the stadium. Or no entry without a negative test result, some said.

Many called for bans on tailgating, parties and related events. Gasparilla was canceled, they said, so why would another parade be allowed?

Some Buccaneer fans rose up in mild outrage at the threat of canceling a yet-to-be-clinched victory parade.

“This city loves its football team. No way will they stop tailgating or a parade, especially if they win,” Tyler Gelling wrote. “Hell, I’m not missing the Bucs parade for anything.”

Multiple commenters called for the city to close the strip clubs for which Tampa is so well-known.

Related: How Tampa strip clubs are prepping for a pandemic Super Bowl

Dozens more expressed concern not over safety at the event itself, but all the surrounding activities taking place in public spaces and private homes.

“Ray Jay will be one of the safest spots in town; there’s no need to hold it virtually,” Rebecca Taylor wrote. “The spread will be in bars and house parties, which will go on everywhere in Florida and in cities across the US where allowed.”

The grab bag

This question was asked on social media, so it’s no surprise that not all answers were given entirely in good faith.

Rolling around in an inflatable bubble was suggested more than a couple times.

There was plenty of hometown love thrown in, too. After all, the Bucs making the big game means one less fan group traveling from out of state.

And while we’re at it, wouldn’t it be safer if Kansas City fans stayed home? We’re sure Scott Burgess was only thinking of public health concerns when he made the suggestion on Facebook.

Lauren Adriannsen acknowledged the dream scenario she shared on Facebook was petty, but what about putting any unvaccinated attendees at the back of the vaccine line?

Perhaps safety concerns and affordability could be merged. Justin Cohen suggested that tickets be handed out based on essay submissions. Everyone who wants to attend should write why they deserve to go and what they would do to keep themselves and everyone else safe. The best essays would win tickets.

“Then I can afford to go,” Cohen quipped.

Treat each other with respect

While some parts of the comment threads turned bitter, others called for respect and well-balanced approaches.

“We are all so ready for a party, and celebrating a monumental event like this is welcome indeed,” wrote Diane Flanagan, who said she was diagnosed with COVID-19 and still had issues breathing. “Please take this time to have a great time but mask up and socially distance so you and your friends don’t wind up where I am.”

Related: 5 things to know about Super Bowl and the coronavirus

Ken Bergquist said it comes down to personal choice.

“Don’t belittle people that are scared, and don’t belittle people who aren’t,” he wrote. “Take the precautions you feel necessary to protect yourself.”

• • •

Tampa Bay Times Super Bowl 55 coverage

TIMELINE: How the Bucs and Tampa converged for Super Bowl 55

ATTENTION SUPER BOWL VISITORS: Here’s our guide to Tampa Bay’s socially distanced attractions

PARTY PLANNING IN A PANDEMIC: How to host a safe Super Bowl party

FANS IN TAMPA: A first look inside the Super Bowl Experience in Tampa

MORE BUCS PHOTOS: Follow the Tampa Bay Times Bucs coverage on Instagram

BUCS NEWSLETTER: Sign up for the Bucs RedZone newsletter with team reporter Joey Knight:

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