Florida's governor announced a change to the state's coronavirus restrictions that could ensure there will be fans in the stadium when Super Bowl LV kicks off in February.
As The Hill reported, Gov. Ron DeSantis this week lifted all restrictions on bars and restaurants and prohibited local governments from ordering closures or placing any new restrictions without justification. The mandate says that if these local governments want to institute capacity limitations between 50 percent and 100 percent, officials would need to prove that there is an economic and health justification.
"There will not be limitations from the state of Florida," DeSantis said. "I think this will be very, very important to the industry. Some of the local [governments] can do reasonable regulations, but you can't say no after six months and just have people twisting in the wind."
As the report noted, DeSantis specifically encouraged teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to allow fans back into the stadiums. Tampa will host Super Bowl LV in February, and the moves together could ensure that there would be at least some level of attendance. With the mandate in place, officials in Tampa may not be able to place limitations on the Super Bowl without proving they have a cause for it.
Through the first two weeks of the NFL season, some clubs have begun to allow a limited number of fans into the stadiums, many with mask mandates and social distancing orders in place. That includes some Florida teams, including the Miami Dolphins, who have allowed a limited number of fans in the stands for games.
The league had already announced in May that it was moving forward with the Super Bowl, which is scheduled to kick off in Tampa on February 7, 2021. As Bay News 9 reported at the time, the league's chief medical officer said they would be monitoring developments and consulting with experts, be prepared to make any changes that would be necessary but were still planning to hold the game as scheduled.
At the time, there was already planning for the Super Bowl taking place within Tampa, including logistics for travel and hotel occupancies.
Though some expressed doubt about whether the football season could move forward, the young NFL year has gone on without any of the major disruptions seen in other sports. Major League Baseball had a number of canceled games due to positive COVID-19 tests, and both the NHL and NBA moved the completion of their seasons into secured "bubbles" where teams would be isolated.