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Tampa mayor says Gasparilla can be safe despite omicron but is calling for 'personal responsibility'

Gasparilla invasion
Daylina Miller
The Gasparilla pirate invasion returns to downtown Tampa in 2022 after it was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Jane Castor says getting vaccinated, receiving a booster shot and wearing a mask is the best way paradegoers can avoid spreading COVID during the festivities.

Gasparilla celebrations are returning to downtown Tampa later this month after they were canceled in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This is despite a recent surge in cases due to the omicron variant.

Tampa city officials — including Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and interim police Chief Ruben Delgado — held a news conference Tuesday outside the Tampa Convention Center.

Castor said the city is looking forward to once again hosting the annual Gasparilla festivities, and assured residents the events can be safe — as long as they take precautions.

"Gasparilla is back," Castor said. "This is very, very exciting for us. This is the signature event for the entire Tampa Bay area and it is an opportunity for our community to come together to celebrate safely. But it also puts us on the stage for others to see that we really do get to live here in paradise."

Castor acknowledged that the onset of omicron brings a new set of concerns.

"This year obviously is different," Castor said. "With the pandemic, we are still under the omicron variant, and so we are asking everyone to ensure that they understand their level of personal responsibility.

"The omicron has hit us. It is going up quickly, and all indications are that it's going to come down just as quickly. Those who have been vaccinated and boosted are protected against severe reactions if they contract it. And so, personal responsibility at this point. Personal responsibility and a mask."

Castor urged everyone attending the parade to get fully vaccinated, including a booster shot if they qualify.

Castor said the long parade routes — 4½ miles for the Jan. 22 children's parade and six miles for the pirate invasion on Jan. 29 — will also allow people to socially distance.

But she said those who can't maintain a safe distance should wear a mask, and those at higher risk or those who don't feel safe in large crowds should remain at home.

"If you are immune-compromised or you have other health issues," Castor said, "then we ask that you stay home and enjoy Gasparilla festivities on television."

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Carl Lisciandrello is digital news editor of WUSF Public Media.