NFL games with many in-person fans may have spiked COVID cases

A study of Nationwide Soccer League (NFL) residence video games attended by 1.3 million followers means that these with excessive attendance had been tied to subsequent county-level COVID-19 surges in the course of the 2020-2021 season.

A group led by a College of Southern Mississippi researcher analyzed information from all 32 NFL groups in the course of the 2020-2021 season, when some video games had been open to followers, and others had been closed due to the specter of viral transmission in crowded environments. The researchers plotted complete COVID-19 circumstances and charges utilizing 7-, 14-, and 21-day transferring averages for every group in opposition to precise case numbers within the 219 host and surrounding counties.

The authors famous that 20 of 32 NFL groups allowed totally different numbers of followers to attend some or all residence video games and carried out security and well being procedures, together with sanitation, crowd management, and bodily distancing. Two groups, the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, allowed greater than 20,000 followers at a time to attend their video games. The research interval was earlier than the emergence of the extra extremely transmissible Delta and Omicron variants.

Video games with fewer than 5,000 followers not implicated

Of 269 video games, 117 included followers, and 152 didn’t. Fan attendance, which ranged from 748 to 31,700, was linked to COVID-19 case spikes and charges within the subsequent 14 days within the host county (case charge ratio [RR], 1.36), adjoining counties (case RR, 1.31; charge RR,1.41), and pooled counties (case RR, 1.45; charge RR, 1.72).

Attended video games had been additionally related to case surges within the 21 days after the sport within the host county (case RR, 1.49; charge RR, 1.50), neighboring counties (case RR, 1.37: charge RR, 1.45), and pooled counties (case RR, 1.41; charge RR, 1.70). Video games with fewer than 5,000 followers weren’t tied to spikes, however counties with groups internet hosting no less than 20,000 followers noticed COVID-19 spike charges that had been 2.23 occasions larger than these with decrease attendance.

The authors stated the findings spotlight the significance of taking a holistic method to managing public occasions throughout an infectious illness outbreak earlier than vaccines and fast testing can be found.

“The spikes in COVID-19 for crowds of over 20,000 folks recommend that giant occasions must be dealt with with excessive warning throughout public well being occasion(s) the place vaccines, on-site testing, and numerous countermeasures aren’t available to the general public,” the researchers wrote.

Public well being questions stay

In a associated commentary, Stephanie Johnson, MPH, and Eric Lofgren, MSPH, PhD, each of Washington State College, stated that gathering proof on the results of sport attendance is vital for public well being decision-makers as they steadiness security with rising strain to return to regular.

However they cautioned that the causal relationship between fan attendance and the following COVID-19 spikes is simply inferential. “It’s potential, for instance, that the noticed spike in COVID-19 circumstances and fan attendance had been each pushed by some third confounding issue—for instance, a inhabitants with a low common notion of an infection danger or the stress-free of native public well being measures usually over the identical interval,” they wrote.

As such, it stays tough to parse any suggestions from the information, Johnson and Lofgren stated: “Public well being decision-makers nonetheless lack concrete proof for attributing a spike in any circumstances to at least one a part of the general soccer fan expertise. For instance, would a ban on tailgating or different modifications to the gameday expertise meaningfully mitigate the unfold of COVID-19 at soccer video games attended by followers?”

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