With its full of life music scene and Ybor Metropolis’s historic district stuffed with bars and eating places, Tampa has a nightlife that is laborious to beat wherever in Florida.
The town could have an important cause to have enjoyable on Sunday as it is going to be the positioning of Tremendous Bowl LV and the primary metropolis to host its personal soccer workforce, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, within the championship recreation.
The anticipated arrival of 1000’s of exuberant followers and the same old celebrations that mark the Tremendous Bowl would appear like a logistical headache for Mayor Jane Castor, who final yr unsuccessfully sought to close down bars within the metropolis to gradual the unfold of COVID-19 and He has clashed with the Republican governor of the state about whether or not to open up shortly.
However 11 months after the pandemic, he feels town and the NFL have discovered sufficient to run the occasion safely, though it will not precisely be regular.
“We’re taking the world stage and one factor I can assure you is that Tampa Bay goes to bop like by no means earlier than,” he mentioned at a latest press convention. “We make certain this can be a secure occasion for everybody.”
Castor mentioned he helps the NFL’s choice to permit 22,000 Tremendous Bowl viewers, together with 7,500 healthcare staff who’ve obtained each doses of the vaccine. Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium has a capability of 75,000 folks. In the course of the common season, the stadium allowed round 14,000 followers.
And he mentioned he is happy that the NFL and the Tampa Bay Tremendous Bowl Host Committee are limiting official game-related occasions to outside actions. The Tremendous Bowl Expertise, a seven-day occasion that features stay music, meals, drinks, and soccer-themed actions, takes place in numerous parks alongside the two.7-mile Tampa Riverwalk.
Nevertheless, town will proceed to implement its masks ordinance inside bars in the course of the week, the Castor spokesman mentioned. Whereas Governor Ron DeSantis has not allowed the native authorities to superb prospects who don’t masks, he can penalize enterprise homeowners for not requiring prospects to put on masks.
On Thursday, Castor signed an govt order mandating using outside face covers in areas downtown and close to the stadium designated for Tremendous Bowl-related occasions.
Face masks might be required to attend the sport, in addition to for all these passing by way of Tampa Worldwide Airport. The airport is providing COVID-19 testing for any customer who requests it.
To make sure, many individuals within the metropolis nonetheless oppose the orientation of carrying masks. Metropolis and county officers proceed to hunt methods to inspire higher compliance, and the Hillsborough County fee in December mentioned that solely people who find themselves sitting and consuming or ingesting in indoor bars or eating places can take away their masks.
In an interview late final yr, Castor, a former police chief, mentioned town has made the state of affairs work and has given corporations credit score for making use of masks to staff and prospects. “We’re very pleased with the compliance,” he mentioned. “It’s uncommon to see folks with out masks inside.”
Tampa, a metropolis of 400,000, has had greater than 57,000 COVID-19 instances, in keeping with state knowledge. That places town fourth within the state behind Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville. Roughly 1,300 folks have died from COVID-19 in Hillsborough County, practically 40% of whom have been nursing residence residents and staff.
Castor mentioned final yr that he would moderately see the bars closed to guard folks from transmitting the COVID-19 virus. It didn’t occur.
Assembly in bars creates a “actual Petri dish for an infection,” he mentioned. Their reasoning: Individuals are indoors, unable to bodily distance themselves, and speaking loudly to one another whereas consuming alcohol, making efforts to curb infections much more troublesome.
Over the summer season, he unsuccessfully lobbied Hillsborough County commissioners to make use of federal COVID-19 help cash to pay for the bars to remain closed. The county managed the CARES Act funds that got here from the federal authorities.
Then, Castor’s efforts to close down the bars got here to a halt after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in September took that energy away from native governments, together with their skill to implement masks mandates towards patrons.
Florida mandated that each one bars and breweries shut from March to September, besides for 3 weeks in June. DeSantis reopened bars in September, however solely at 50% capability. Inside weeks of their actions, the each day variety of new infections in Florida doubled after which tripled.
Castor, a Democrat who left the Republican Occasion in 2015, mentioned the governor ought to have left choices in regards to the pandemic to metropolis and county leaders. Nevertheless, he mentioned he has discovered different methods to fight the unfold of the virus.
He used social media, together with the assistance of healthcare staff and professional athletes, to ship the message to residents that they need to put on masks and keep bodily away from others.
“We’re doing properly with warning,” Castor mentioned in a latest interview.
For the reason that pandemic led to restrictions on gathering folks, town has canceled or rescheduled many occasions. This consists of the annual pirate-themed Gasparilla parade and pageant, which usually attracts a whole lot of 1000’s of individuals; It has moved from January to mid-April.
Castor is assured that metropolis residents will act responsibly.
“Whereas I’m conscious of COVID fatigue, if we are able to maintain this for a pair extra months, we’ll see the impact of the vaccine and we’ll come out of this and save many lives within the course of.”
She is assured that the Tremendous Bowl can proceed, regardless of issues in regards to the unfold of COVID-19. “That is our alternative to do our greatest on the world stage,” he informed reporters, promising that the Buccaneers “would be the first workforce in NFL historical past to carry the Lombardi Trophy in our personal yard.”
(Kaiser Well being Information (KHN) is a nationwide well being coverage information service. It’s an editorially unbiased program of the Henry J. Kaiser Household Basis, which isn’t affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.)
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