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Hillsborough Tossing Nationwide Net To Track Coronavirus Cases Tied To Super Bowl

Fans celebrate.
Stephanie Colombini / WUSF
Fans celebrate outside Raymond James Stadium on Sunday night after the Bucs' Super Bowl victory.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, large crowds of Buccaneers fans celebrated in the streets of Tampa on Sunday night after the team's victory in Super Bowl LV.

The Hillsborough County Health Department is asking for help in tracking coronavirus cases related to Sunday's Super Bowl and surrounding celebrations.

The agency is asking public health agencies nationwide for information tied to large gatherings.

Sunday's win by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers led to crowds dancing in streets across Tampa, with people hugging friends and strangers - and generally ignoring COVID-19 guidelines to stay masked up and socially distanced.

Michael Wiese, an epidemiologist with the health department, said the agency will know in a couple of weeks if Super Bowl festivities initiated a type of superspreader event.

"Quite honestly, we haven't had a gathering of that size occur in our county for a very long time. So we know that if you get together in large groups and if you're not social distancing, all of those are things put you at risk for getting the illness and create the right scenario for the spread of coronavirus," he said.

Hillsborough County will trace the virus using Epi-X, the epidemiology disease sharing network from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Weise says it's a good tool to monitor the virus.

"We want to both be able to ask the question, were they there where they could of spread the disease to others, or are we seeing people that were at the Super Bowl and that's where they likely acquired coronavirus," he said.

The health department will document all cases of people who test positive for COVID-19 who also reported attending Super Bowl events in Tampa.

Some of the nation’s top health officials warned of the risks of the Super Bowl initiating a surge in cases, amid worries that new variants of the coronavirus have become more contagious.

Copyright 2021 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Cathy Carter is the education reporter for WUSF 89.7 and StateImpact Florida.