Baseball stadiums are filling up, but an analysis of the NFL’s 2020 season maintains a warning about COVID-19 case spikes


Bthe aceball season has arrived and thousands of fans on the way back have returned to the parks after a year of empty seats. Most teams, still cautious about the risk of COVID-19, keep their stadiums ready less than 30% capacity for now. On April 5, 2021, only the Texas Rangers filled the track for the team’s inauguration.

Many of these assistance decisions are being made with minimal data on the high risk that players and fans have of getting COVID-19 in stadiums or arenas and spreading it around the community.

There is a large-scale experiment that can offer some insight: the 2020 season of the National Football League.

The NFL played 269 games in 30 cities, some with thousands of fans in hand, others without any. To help everyone understand the risks, we and other colleagues need to study the risks on a large scale in professional sports broke the numbers. What we found can help teams and fans decide the best way to enjoy their favorite games.

How many fans are too many fans?

Twenty of the 32 NFL franchises allowed fans to their stadiums during games. Some of these games had over 20,000 people.

The NFL’s decision to allow gaming fans allowed us to examine the potential influence that major sporting events can have on local viral transmission. Although we have not been able to definitively assess the cause and effect, the results they caught my eye.

We found that in counties where teams had 20,000 or more fans of the games, there were more than twice as many cases of COVID-19 in the three weeks following the games compared to counties with other teams. The case rate per 100,000 residents was also double. Neighboring counties also experienced a higher count and case rate in the three weeks following the games, with many seats fans.

In comparison COVID-19 case data i game attendance data according to ESPN, we found patterns that are transmitted to all 30 football communities. The study has been submitted to the medical journal The Lancet for peer review and was published on April 2, 2021 in prepress format.

We found very little evidence of peaks of COVID-19 associated with fan-assisted gaming during the first seven days after gaming, which was not surprising given the incubation period of the virus. However, the two- and three-week windows after the games were markedly different, with a significantly higher rate of peaks in COVID-19 cases that were identified in communities that had fans at the games compared to those who did not. .

When the stadiums had less than 5,000 fans in the stands, we didn’t see a high number of cases like the ones that allowed more than 20,000 fans.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, hosts of the Super Bowl, were one of the teams that allowed the maximum number of fans. The peaks observed in Hillsborough County, Florida, after home games were quite pronounced. Approximately 18 to 21 days after almost every Bucs home game with attendees, there was an increase in cases. This repeated pattern of peaks in COVID-19 case rates reflects the time elapsed between exposure and development of the disease, being tested and reported. A similar pattern appeared on almost every team that allowed more than 5,000 fans to the stadium last NFL season.

Yes, there is still a risk

Although COVID-19 vaccines are going up across the country, much of the public remains vulnerable to this lethal disease. Only from April 5, 2021 around 19% of the American population had been completely vaccinated. It is not known how many people may have natural immunity from having the virus and how long the immunity will last.

Being outdoors reduces the risk compared to being in a room, but when there are infected people shouting or cheering, can spread the virus further.

Major League Baseball is encouraging precautions this season, including the recommending fans and players to wear masks while they are not in the field and practicing social distancing. But it will be up to each team to decide how important their fans can be.

Take away food for games and big get-togethers

The 2020 NFL season brings important lessons about mass gatherings during infectious disease outbreaks.

The research suggests using a phased approach, with the number of fans attending sporting and entertainment events slowly increasing only after officials have assessed the spread of the COVID-19 case to local and surrounding communities. This approach may be necessary until enough people are vaccinated to stop the spread of the virus. Even then, sports teams and event organizers should monitor public health data for future risks.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States has dropped significantly from its peak after the Thanksgiving and winter holidays, but the risk has not gone away. The daily case count is even higher than last September, and the US is also seeing an increase coronavirus variants which spread more easily than the initial virus.

Fans, sports organizers and other events will need to keep this in mind when making decisions about upcoming seasons, concerts and the Summer Olympics. This includes a boxing match that will be attended by over 60,000 spectators Dallas over Five May weekend.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has already said that wait for full stages when the football season starts again in the fall.

Wanda Leal of Texas A&M San Antonio, Erin Sorrell of Georgetown University and Nicole Leeper Piquero of the University of Miami contributed to this article.

Alex R. Piquero, Professor of the Department of Sociology and Arts and Sciences Distinguished Scholar, University of Miami i Justin Kurland, Director of Research, National Center for Spectator Safety and Security in Sports, The University of Southern Mississippi

This article is republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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