“With the Bucs playing in the Super Bowl, no one is thinking about COVID,” Colazzo said. “It’s an escape from what’s going on. The last three nights, I’ve met a lot of people from California and other lockdown states who came here just to party. They are not even here to watch the football game.”

But parties like that one are set to buck warnings from the nation’s top infectious disease expert—and could lay the groundwork for another surge, experts said…

In the Super Bowl host city of Tampa, a convergence of Buccaneers fans giddy that their team is the first franchise to play the big game on its home field, and out-of-towners desperate to escape the confines of more restricted states could spell disaster. Even though the NFL is permitting 25,000 spectators, the danger primarily exists in smaller venues outside Raymond James Stadium, where thousands more rowdy football fans will congregate, health experts warned.

“People attending the Super Bowl is not what I’m most concerned about,” University of South Florida epidemiologist Dr. Jason Salemi told The Daily Beast. “It’s how those in our community and visitors to our beautiful city decide to celebrate this amazing event. I would absolutely advise against crowded places, close-contact settings, and enclosed spaces.”