Health experts say this fall’s crowded college and professional football stadiums could create ripe conditions for COVID-19 to spread among unvaccinated fans.
Many football stadiums—most of which hold from 65,000 to 100,000 fans—aren’t requiring fans to wear masks or be vaccinated. This increases the risk of a fan being exposed, depending on where the stadium is and whether the game is outdoors, among other factors, according to the Associated Press.
“At any sort of large event like at a football stadium, without question, there will be many infected people there,” says Ryan Demmer, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.
And it is not just football health officials are concerned over. In March 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic was raging across the country, the NHL, MLB, NCAA, PGA, NASCAR, and other sports leagues suspended their respective seasons.
This was the point in time that the pandemic became very real for Americans. To have sports suspended hit home – letting us know that life would be altered, that what was to come was uncertain and uncharted, challenging and even tragic.
Earlier this year, the suspended seasons began again, although there has been no blanket policy on coronavirus precautions. Each sport just wants to get back to a semblance of normal.
But Thursday – it seemed that all had returned to “normal.” The Dallas Cowboys lost their season opener to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before a full house of excited, and clearly happy fans, and there were no cutouts of fake fans in the whole stadium.
There were also no mandatory mask or proof of vaccination requirements. Of the 32 teams in the NFL, only three have mandates for their fans. The Las Vegas Raiders requires proof of vaccination for all fans 12 and over. The New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks require that fans show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
College football is also totally into learning to live with this new normal in the pandemic. Scenes last week showed college football fans cheering and screaming while standing shoulder-to-shoulder in packed stadiums.
“I don’t think it’s smart,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to multiple presidents, told CNN. “Outdoors is always better than indoors, but when you have such a congregate setting of people close together, first, you should be vaccinated. And when you do have congregate settings, particularly indoors, you should be wearing a mask.”
Experts say the single biggest way to manage the risk before attending a game is to get fully vaccinated. Wearing masks and using hand sanitizer at the game is also a good idea, says Dr. Sharon Wright, chief infection prevention officer at Beth Israel Lahey Health in Boston, reports the Register Citizen.