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TAMPA, Fla. — Not everybody celebrated the NFL’s decision to invite 7,500 vaccinated health care workers to Super Bowl 55.
Outside Raymond James Stadium, site of the game, about 20 protesters voiced their opposition to vaccines — especially the vaccine for COVID-19.
“Please don’t get the vaccine. The media lied to you,” one protester called out, citing a baseless claim.
Another held up small pieces of red paper.
“Fauci facts,” she cried, referring to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and a strong proponent of vaccines. “Learn about Fauci.”
The “facts’’ falsely implied Fauci’s advocacy of vaccines over the years can be linked to an increase in chronic disease in children.
The group of protesters was part of 150 anti-vaxxers that was organized by the Florida Freedom Keepers and part of a campaign in all 50 states, said Josh Coleman, an organizer. He said he traveled from California to participate and, like the other protesters, wore a football referee outfit and held up a poster decrying vaccines, his reading, “Vaccine Makers Are Exempt From Liability.’’
“The whole idea here is just to bring attention to vaccine risks,’’ Coleman said. “A lot of the media’s not talking about vaccine risks and also healthcare workers aren’t talking about it. So we need to bring that out to people more than ever before and we’re taking advantage of situation where there’s a lot of people here and also question the COVID-19 vaccine.”
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The protesters, most of who declined to be identified, were met with vulgar gestures by some of the passersby.
“We’re getting negative responses and we’re getting a lot of positive,’’ Coleman said. “A lot of the healthcare workers primarily are not too happy about it.”
None of the vaccine protesters wore protective masks, and countless other people milled about the stadium without wearing masks, despite a mask mandate instituted by Tampa mayor Jane Castor.
A fleet of cyclists passed through. Maskless.
Four men wearing sombreros and crooning in Spanish. Maskless.
A couple of fans dressed up as Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. Maskless.
Will COVID-19 cases spike in Hillsborough County, which encompasses Tampa?
“As of today, no clusters have been linked to Super Bowl activities,’’ Kevin Watler, public information officer for the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County told USA TODAY Sports about two hours before Super Bowl 55 kickoff. “Post Super Bowl, we will continue close monitoring.”
Ashley Bauman said code enforcement officers and police were out.
“They are working round the clock to ensure the public safety and community, both residents and visitors alike. Unfortunately people will have to use some personal responsibility.”