Both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties reported a steady decline in COVID-19 cases over the weekend amid Tampa’s hosting of Super Bowl LV.
Hillsborough County, which hosted a concentration of big game activities, reported 536 new cases over the weekend — 306 on Saturday and 230 on Sunday, according to Florida Department of Health data released Monday. The county has seen 103,835 cases since the start of the pandemic.
The county also reported seven new hospitalizations and five additional deaths over the weekend, bringing the virus’ local death toll to 1,358.
Neighboring Pinellas County confirmed 376 new cases over the weekend, 188 each day. Pinellas also reported 10 new deaths and hospitalizations over the weekend, bringing the death toll to 1,345.
Since the start of the pandemic, Pinellas has reported 61,730 cases of coronavirus.
The Tampa Bay counties’ positivity rates were on the lower side over the weekend, both far below 10%, the marker of mass community spread.
Hillsborough County reported a positivity rate of 6.49% on Saturday and 6.45% on Sunday, lower than the previous week’s average around 7.5%.
Pinellas County saw even lower numbers, reporting a rate of 5.01% on Saturday and 5.56% on Sunday, nearing St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s goal of keeping the rate below 5%.
Despite the counties’ decline in cases, there is growing concern that Super Bowl festivities may have acted as potential super-spreader events.
Images captured by Tampa Bay Times photographer Luis Santana show thousands of party-goers in Ybor City the eve of the Super Bowl, many not wearing masks and in cramped conditions.
On the night of the Super Bowl game, more party-goers were captured in the Channelside district and other bay area party spots without masks or social distancing measures.
The images of the night show disregard to Mayor Jane Castor’s executive order requiring the use of face coverings outdoors within specified locations related to Super Bowl LV.
The Mayor expressed frustration at the lack of mitigation efforts at the festivities.
“It is a little frustrating because we have worked so hard,” Castor said during a Monday morning news conference with the Super Bowl Host Committee. “At this point in dealing with COVID-19, there is a level of frustration when you see that.”
Even President Joe Biden is expressing concern about the potential effects of Super Bowl revelers this weekend in Tampa.
However, the impact of these events won’t be known until the end of this week and into the next. For now, COVID-19 cases remain steady.
Amid the concern, vaccinations efforts are being streamlined in the counties.
Hillsborough County has so far vaccinated 94,500 individuals, including 43,253 who have completed the vaccine series. Pinellas County has vaccinated 92,480 people, 31,723 of whom have received the second dose.