Hard Rock Stadium in metro Miami has become a strange scene to behold this week during a state surge of COVID-19.
On Friday, long lines of cars waited at the stadium for vaccinations for residents who are 65 and older — a reminder that a deadly virus is on the loose and reached record levels Thursday in Florida.
On Monday, the same stadium is scheduled to host a limited crowd of about 14,000 people for the college football national championship game between Alabama and Ohio State — a sign of normality and revelry after 10 months of the pandemic.
So which is it — a time for tourism or an atmosphere of increased emergency?
In Florida, it’s both apparently. And that’s not good, according to public health experts.
“We’re seeing a pretty substantial increase in the number of cases in Miami-Dade County,” Florida International University epidemiologist Mary Jo Trepka told USA TODAY Sports on Friday. “The last three days we’ve had over 3,000 cases a day, and we’re over 10% positivity. There is a lot of COVID-19 in the community, not just Miami-Dade but Florida in general. So if anyone is making a decision to come and travel, they need to know about that and they really need to think carefully about that, because there’s just an awful lot of COVID-19 right now.”