Experts Fear Crowded Sport Stadiums, Virus Combustible Mix

Experts Fear Crowded Sport Stadiums, Virus Combustible Mix a large crowd cheers a game at the Big house in michigan The Big House an Ann Arbor, Michigan, seats 107,601, but can pack in more than 115,000 with standing-room capacity. (Tony Ding/AP)

The Associated Press Saturday, 11 September 2021 09:43 AM

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 are not requiring fans to wear masks or be vaccinated. The chances of a fan being exposed will depend on where the stadium is and whether the game is outdoors, among other factors. Experts say the single biggest way to manage the risk before attending a game is to get fully vaccinated.

Most football stadiums hold from 65,000 to 100,000 fans.

"At any sort of large event like at a football stadium, without question there will be many infected people there," said Ryan Demmer epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

The NFL does not have a blanket policy for masks or vaccination status for fans. That creates a patchwork of guidelines developed by each of the 32 teams. The Las Vegas Raiders requires proof of vaccination for all fans 12 and over. The New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks requires fans show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.

Wearing masks and using hand sanitizer at the game is also a good idea, said Dr. Sharon Wright, chief infection prevention officer at Beth Israel Lahey Health in Boston.

The highly contagious delta variant has triggered a summer surge in infections. The seven-day rolling average for daily cases in the U.S. sits at about 150,000 after starting September above 167,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.