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Public health expert: ‘Prudent decision’ to postpone Tampa’s Gasparilla festivities during coronavirus surge

Hillsborough County

TAMPA (WFLA) – Amid a coronavirus surge that could peak in January, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla and EventFest have decided to postpone Tampa Bay’s biggest annual celebration until April.

“I think it was a prudent decision given what we are seeing both around the country and in Florida to protect the public health of the citizens of our region,” said Dr. Jay Wolfson, the Senior Associate Dean for Health Police and Practice at the Morsani College of Medicine at the University of South Florida.

Dr. Wolfson told 8 On Your Side that thousands of pirates packing the streets for the parade on Bayshore Boulevard could increase the community spread of the virus.

“You’re feeding the COVID monster and the COVID monster would like nothing more than to force us to lock down the economy which would be the biggest mistake we could make,” he added.

New Orleans became one of the country’s first COVID-19 hot spots last March after Mardi Gras. The mayor there has already canceled parades and imposed other restrictions for the city’s signature day of celebrations in 2021.

Dr. Wolfson said some of the current coronavirus spike in Tampa Bay can be traced back several weeks to when Lightning fans celebrates the return of Lord Stanley’s Cup.

“We had super spreader events throughout the street, fraternity parties and as a consequences we saw positive cases erupting,” he said, pointing out it can take several a few weeks to feel ripple effects of a large public gathering during the pandemic.

Health experts warn this latest nationwide COVID-19 surge could peak in January.

The Gasparilla pirate invasion and parade are now delayed from Jan. 30 until Saturday April 17, 2021. The new dates for the Children’s Gasparilla parade is Saturday April 10, 2021.

Dr. Wolfson said he is hopeful the community will push down the curve in time for the pirates to invade Tampa in the spring.

“I am an optimist and I believe that if we are capable of exercising discipline and responsibility we should find a way to enjoy the important traditions that this community thrives on,” he told 8 On Your Side.

COVID-19 has not pushed back the other big event happening this winter in Tampa.

Super Bowl LV is still scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, but the NFL has said there will be limited fan attendance at Raymond James Stadium.

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