Stadiums and sporting events are among the most eagerly awaited reopenings, post-pandemic, and the big sports leagues like Major League Baseball and the NBA have announced plans to allow more spectators. At the same time, a new study has found that crowded stadiums are connected to surges in COVID-19 cases nearby. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Signs Your Illness is Actually Coronavirus in Disguise.
COVID Cases Potentially Resulted From In-Person NFL Games
In research submitted to The Lancet late last month, scientists analyzed the number of positive cases from the counties where NFL teams played and surrounding counties where fans may have traveled farther to games. They found that infection rates spiked two and three weeks after NFL games that were played with more than 5,000 spectators.
“The evidence overwhelmingly supports that fan attendance at NFL games led to episodic spikes” in COVID-19 cases, the researchers wrote.
But Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president for communications, public affairs and policy, told The New York Times that local public health experts found no “case clusters” in the cities and states where 119 games were played in front of fans, and independent research conducted by the MIT Sports Lab found no increase in COVID cases “in the appreciable time frame following the games.”
Spikes Could Have Other Causes
The authors of the Lancet study admit their research only suggests a correlation between NFL games and nearby COVID spikes; it can’t prove the former caused the latter. The rise in cases might have been caused by colleges reopening, holiday travel, or other social events. The games also might have encouraged people to gather in homes and bars to watch on TV, where infections could have occurred.
“The strength of these studies is they are showing something, but the correlations can only point out the possibilities, not the causation,” said Bruce Y. Lee, the executive director of Public Health Informatics Computational and Operations Research at City University of New York School of Public Health. “It’s not just a football game and people go home. There are all these associated activities around the game.”
The researchers said the study indicates that caution around stadium reopenings is necessary. “We’re not saying that the NFL shouldn’t have opened up to fans,” said Alex Piquero, a sociologist at the University of Miami and a co-author of the study. “But we have to understand the public health implications of opening up.”
How to Survive This Pandemic
As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.