Jan 28, 2021 - News

How Tampa Bay is juggling a Super Bowl and a pandemic

Illustration of two football helmets with coronavirus logos on them flying at each other.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

With 10 days left until the big game, there’s been a lot of talk about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Super Bowl — and, by extension, Tampa Bay.

The state of play: Super Bowl Host Committee president Rob Higgins doesn’t want to think about what could have been for our area. Instead, he told Axios he appreciates what the Super Bowl is: a much-needed economic boost.

"This is really a shot in the arm when the community needs it most. ... Every community in the country would love to be hosting this Super Bowl right now with how their tourism and hospitality industries have been impacted by the pandemic. That we’re the ones who get it is really important."

Higgins pointed out some of the game's scores:

  • Airline bookings have more than doubled over recent months.
  • Hotels have booked the most rooms since the pandemic started.
  • Its social legacy initiative has backed local charities, like Feeding Tampa Bay, which has seen a 400% increase in demand since the pandemic began.

The other side: Higgins' comments come as a lot of the news surrounding the game this week has focused on big commercial sponsors like Bud Light and Coke dropping out along with reduced capacity limits.

As for the superspreader potential, Higgins said he’s committed to being an example for the rest of the world on how to safely put on a huge event.

  • NFL-sponsored events, like the Super Bowl Experience along downtown's Riverwalk, will be outdoors and distanced, with enforced mask usage.

What's next: Tampa Mayor Jane Castor told the Tampa Bay Times that a new order "will require masks outdoors in those areas that we expect will be densely populated with Super Bowl fans."

  • USF health professor Dr. Thomas Unnasch told Fox 13 he's more concerned about virus transmission at unofficial parties and gatherings.

This story first appeared in the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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