A record 65,000 people packed Tampa’s stadium to witness Tom Brady leading the Buccaneers to victory in the NFL’s season opening game. This just hours after President Joe Biden announced his new strategy to slow the COVID-19 explosion.
The majority of those at the open air stadium Thursday night were not wearing masks. Biden has asked sports and entertainment venues not to require vaccines for their fans. Health experts are concerned that other football stadiums will follow a similar approach to pandemic precautions this fall.
Experts say that COVID-19 could spread to unvaccinated football fans this fall because of the crowded stadiums at college and professional football.
The likelihood of you contracting or passing a disease that has infected more Americans than 40,000,000 people will depend on the location of the stadium, and whether it is outside.
HOW RISKY ARE STADIUMS?
It is difficult to predict the number of COVID-19 cases that might arise from one event. This depends on the infection rate at the venue and how many people have been vaccinated.
The highly contagious Delta variant has caused a spike in infections this summer, but it is now starting to slow down. Johns Hopkins University has reported that the average daily number of new infections in the U.S. is about 150,000 per day after September was above 167,000.
Ryan Demmer, an epidemiologist said it was “basically a certainty that there will at least one infected person” at every gathering of more than a thousand people at those rates.
Many stadiums can hold 60,000 or more fans.
Demmer of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health stated, “At any kind of large event like a football game, without doubt there will be many infection people there.”
HAS COVID-19 APREAD AT OTHER EVENTS
Yes. About 385,000 people attended the Lollapalooza Chicago music festival in July. Festivalgoers needed to prove proof of vaccinations or that they had passed a negative test. Nearly two months after the event, officials from the city reported 203 COVID-19 related cases.
Wisconsin health officials say nearly 500 coronavirus cases could be linked to Milwaukee Bucks games.
ARE VENUES CONSENT TO TAKING ANY MEASURES?
The NFL doesn’t have a blanket policy on vaccination status or masks. Each of the 32 teams have their own guidelines.
Las Vegas Raiders for example will require proof that all 12 year old fans have been vaccinated. New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks will ask fans to provide proof of vaccination.
Louisiana State University, a college-football powerhouse, follows a similar policy as the Saints.
Many teams ask fans to wear masks indoors, but not while they are seated.
Following a summer filled with concerts, NBA playoffs games, and baseball, football games are now back at full capacity in arenas or stadiums.
DO OUTDOOR STADIUMS ELIMINATE RISK?
No. They are safer than the rest because they allow air to circulate better, which can limit the spread of airborne viruses.
Demmer, the epidemiologist, stated that there is still a high possibility that an unmasked and unvaccinated fan could be infected with COVID-19 if he or she sits next to an infected individual for more than three hours.
The majority of NFL’s 30 stadiums can be seen open-air.
Four teams have closed roofs: the Detroit Lions (Las Vegas Raiders), New Orleans Saints (Saints) and Minnesota Vikings. Five have retractable roofs that are openable or closed.
The stadium, which opened in Los Angeles last year and is now home to the Chargers & Rams, has a canopy-type roof with panels at each end that allow for airflow.
WHAT ARE THE PRECAUTIONS FANS SHOULD REMEMBER?
The most important thing is to get fully vaccinated. Doctors state that the shots do not eliminate risk but lower it significantly, especially if there is a chance of developing serious illness that will require hospitalization.
“The delta variation is… so more contagious that it’s going to destroy clusters people unvaccinated,” stated Dr. Amesh Adalja, of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
Dr. Sharon Wright from Beth Israel Lahey Health in Boston said that it is a good idea to bring hand sanitizer and masks to the game.
Although masks may not be perfect, they do offer some protection. They can also be used to prevent people from touching their face.
She observed that “lots and lots of people touch lots and many things in the sports arenas.”
Demmer stated that once fans are at their seats, they should stay there to avoid infected people.
He said, “Don’t wander about the stadium.” “Never stand in line at concession stands.”
While the epidemiologist acknowledged that crowds in stadiums will increase the risk of infection, he cautioned that the virus can be spread to other areas.
Demmer stated, “I wish everyone could get vaccinated so that we can move on once and for all.”
Murphy reported from Indianapolis. Brady McCombs, Associated Press Writer, contributed to this report in Salt Lake City.