TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The annual Gasparilla festivities kick off this weekend.
The Children’s Gasparilla Parade, an alcohol-free event for little pirates on Bayshore Boulevard, starts at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
The crowd is expected to be big this year, which has local doctors worried about the spread of coronavirus.
“We’re definitely seeing more kids admitted to the hospital for COVID than we were a month ago,” said Dr. Juan Dumois who specializes in pediatric infectious disease at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.
Since the the start of 2022 the hospital has diagnosed more than 500 pediatric patients with coronavirus, that’s up from 55 cases in December.
According to Dumois, the Omicron variant is especially contagious, and more kids are coming down with the virus.
He says it’s concerning because only 10% to 15% of Florida kids between the ages of 5 and 11 are fully vaccinated.
“I think there’s a decent chance that a huge event, like Gasparilla, will cause a blip in an increase number of cases in the Omicron coronavirus — there for, increase hospitalizations,” Dumois said. “You have to make the decision of: do you want to be safe or not? Do you want to avoid catching the coronavirus or not.”
In addition to receiving the vaccination, the doctor recommends those attending the parade wear a mask, practice social distancing when possible, wash their hands and use hand sanitizer.