Spectator sports were a major past-time around the world until COVID-19 hit, and as things slowly and carefully open up again, people are wondering how to stay safe at sporting events.
Essential businesses and medical facilities were the first to create safe shopping atmospheres. Then, restaurants began opening with limits on their occupancy. Now, the U.S. is seeing sporting events slowly opening with caps on their occupancy, depending upon their state’s regulations. Schools and community sporting events are varied, while larger events and stadiums are publishing their intentions on a wider scale.
Are fans allowed at NFL games? Should I attend my child’s sporting event? How can I keep myself and my family safe at all spectator events? You’re not alone if you’re pondering these and other questions.
Are Fans Allowed at NFL Games and Other Spectator Events?
While many stadiums are open again, not all are allowing fans during game time. Some NFL games are continuing without any fans, while others are moving forward with responsible caps on their occupancy.
NBC Sports is reporting on game capacity week-to-week. You can also check ESPN to find out where each of the 32 NFL teams stand on allowing fans into stadiums. It’s recommended that you check every week to find out if there have been any changes if you were hoping to catch a game in person this year.
There is a notable inconsistency across the board. One reason is that the governor for each state can order a cap on who can attend games because they are making decisions based on the prevalence of coronavirus in their region. If COVID-19 has a strong foothold or if residents have a history of being unlikely to uphold basic pandemic best practices, such as wearing a mask, there is a negative effect on the ability of local businesses and events to open. Governors are only allowing about 20% capacity.
In addition, the NFL has permitted each of their 32 teams to calculate the risks and decide whether they want to allow fans in the stadium at all, even if the governor deems it okay if limits are respected. This allows each region to react responsibly, if a local outbreak should occur, by further limiting the chance of the virus spreading at their event.
In an interview with Sporting News, NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills said, “It’s not surprising that there are regional variabilities because obviously there are differences in the state of the pandemic and the state of the infection as you move across the country. So, the fact that there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach shouldn’t be surprising given the medical situations across the league.”
What About Youth Sporting Events?
Similar to the NFL, youth and young adult sporting events are also starting to slowly resume. Many families are eager to get their kids socializing again to regain a sense of normalcy, and youth sports are part of that equation. However, safety still needs to come first. The CDC has provided clear guidelines on how to keep youth sporting programs safe. Simply attending practice means youths will be gathering in groups, which calls for best safety practices and screenings.
Parents and athletes should be familiar with the CDC considerations for youth sports before deciding to participate. Attending a game as an athlete or as a spectator should remain fluid so that the decision can be followed by the most up-to-date risk factors. The World Health Organization (WHO) has asked that everyone evaluate the risks in real-time.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Maurizio Barbeschi — senior advisor to the executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies programme — stated, “The decision and protocols can only be local, sports-specific as the risks are different in different countries at different times. There is no unique set of prescriptions. There is a baseline of guidance, which evolves with increasing knowledge, and that guidance should be used more and more to take these decisions by a risk-based approach.”
How To Stay Safe at Sporting Events
While athletes, coaches, and other personnel can be screened and given on-and-off-the-field best guidelines, it’s the attendees that have a greater risk of contracting coronavirus because of the variability in their likelihood to uphold necessary pandemic safety precautions. The only foolproof way to avoid spreading the virus is to stay home.
Here are a few considerations to help you decide whether to attend a sporting event:
- Has there been a stable or downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses, those with COVID-like symptoms and documented COVID-19 cases in your area for the last 14 days?
- Can the hospitals in your area treat all patients without crisis care, and is there a robust testing program in place for all at-risk health care workers, including antibody testing?
- Are you at risk? Meaning are you over 55 years old and/or have a risk of complications because of pre-existing conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, vitamin D deficiency, kidney disease, or a lung-related condition, such as asthma?
Here are a few tips to stay safe at sporting events as well as other spectator events, such as concerts, should you decide to attend:
- Wear a mask. Remember, there are some face coverings that aren’t effective. Responsibly wearing a mask to optimize your safety, as well as the safety of others, means choosing one with at least three layers that fits snugly across your nose (not under), along your cheeks and under your chin. Boomer Naturals has well-designed masks with Nano Silver Technology that keep you safer and is compliant with CDC and WHO recommendations.
- Bring hand sanitizer and use it regularly. Hand sanitizer needs to be made of 60% alcohol in order to be effective against the virus, so check the label before packing your sporting event bag.
- Don’t touch your face or mask. When you touch the outside of your mask, you could also be touching the virus. If you pull your mask off to eat or drink, be sure to wash and sanitize your hands after you’ve handled your mask.
- Maintain social distancing, whether inside or outside. Even though venues are beginning to open, social distancing rules are still in full effect. It’s still safer to remain in well-ventilated outdoor areas.
As the world opens up and continues to find an evolving new normal, remember that safety first is still the best approach to keep yourself and those around you healthy. Returning to a life with in-person dining, social activities, and youth programs and spectator sports still brings with it a responsibility to commit to mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing.