CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – Despite a rise in COVID-19 cases, several events leading up to New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are still a go. That includes the 2022 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday.
The game will feature Penn State and Arkansas. Fans of both teams crowded Clearwater Beach on Thursday for the 2022 Outback Bowl Clearwater Beach Day.
Activities included performances by college bands and cheerleaders, a skydiving performance and tug-of-war.
Anne Beardslee and her husband are huge Penn State fans. They came down from West Virginia to the Tampa Bay area on Tuesday.
“Our goal for football is that it’s a great game and everyone goes home healthy,” Beardslee said.
Beardslee kept her mask on at Thursday’s Outback Bowl Clearwater Beach Day, among hundreds of fans from all over the country. She was one of very few people who made that choice.
“My husband is under treatment, so we need to be safe,” Beardslee said.
The beach day celebration still went on, despite Florida breaking its daily COVID-19 case record four times in the last seven days. The CDC reported more than 58,000 cases Wednesday.
While there were no extra protocols in place at Thursday’s beach day, President and CEO of the Outback Bowl Jim McVay told 8 On Your Side health and safety are paramount.
“We’re telling people, wear mask if you like, get the vaccine and booster,” McVay said. “We felt good about starting the year. We’re also safety conscience, but we have to keep going.”
The increase in cases comes as the omicron variant continues to sweep across the country.
“We leave it to people to do the right thing, be vaccinated and come out without jeopardizing anyone’s health,” Outback Bowl board member Chris Roederer said. “Omicron is highly contagious and we want people to be safe for themselves and everyone they cross paths with.”
Beardslee, like few others at the beach, said she’s going to do everything possible to protect herself from the virus.
“We’ve worn our masks everywhere we’ve gone, we plan to wear it during the game,” Beardslee said.
The Outback Bowl kicks off Saturday at noon at Raymond James Stadium.