Crowded stadiums, pandemic create combustible mix this fall

More than 65,000 fans packed a stadium in Tampa to watch Tom Brady lead the Buccaneers to a win in the NFL’s season opener, just hours after President Joe Biden announced a sweeping new plan to slow the latest COVID-19 surge.
Most people at the open-air stadium Thursday night didn’t wear masks. There was no vaccine requirement for fans, something Biden has urged sports and entertainment venues to impose. Many other football stadiums are taking a similarly lax approach to pandemic measures this fall, and that worries health experts.
This fall’s crowded college and professional football stadiums could create ripe conditions for COVID-19 to spread among unvaccinated fans, experts say.
The risk of catching or passing a virus that has infected more than 40 million people in the United States will depend on where the stadium is and whether the game is outdoors, among other factors.
HOW RISKY ARE STADIUMS?
It’s difficult to predict how many COVID-19 cases might develop from a single event. That depends partly on infection rates where the venue is located and how many people are vaccinated.
The highly contagious delta variant has triggered a surge in infections this summer that just recently started to taper. The seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the U.S. sits at about 150,000 after starting September above 167,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.
At those rates, it is “basically a certainty” that there will be at least one infected person at any gathering of a thousand people, epidemiologist Ryan Demmer said.
Many football stadiums seat 60,000 fans or more.
“At any sort of large event like at a football stadium, without question there will be many infected people there,” said Demmer of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.
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