mcloudyn.png
Sunday September 20th, 2020 3:50AM

Return of football renews fears over more virus spread

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Are you ready for some football?

The kickoff of the NFL season Thursday with 17,000 fans in the stadium illustrates the nation’s determination to resume its most popular sport in the middle of a pandemic that has already killed nearly 200,000 Americans.

The topic has led to passionate debates at the state and local level, including whether to allow high school seasons to proceed and how many fans to allow in professional and college stadiums.

While Major League Baseball and the NBA have played without fans, the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs were allowed to open the season Thursday night against the Houston Texans at 22% capacity. The remainder of the NFL teams start their seasons Sunday with restrictions that vary by stadium, with some games devoid of fans and others with scaled-back crowd sizes like Kansas City.

The start the NFL season brought about another rite of autumn in America: the tailgate party, albeit with pandemic restrictions. About 6,000 people tailgated outside Arrowhead Stadium 90 minutes before kickoff, with cones blocking off every other spot to space out the crowds and mask use encouraged but not required. Fans huddled under pop-up canopies and tents in small groups as the smell of barbecue wafted through the parking lot.

Chris Moore, an IT specialist for T-Mobile in Shawnee, Kansas, acknowledged the fears of the virus but felt it was the right thing to do to come out and support the team at a stadium where he has held season tickets for more than 30 years.

“I live and die with these guys. Last year was extremely special for a lot of us Chiefs fans who have been following them for a long time,” Moore said. “Yeah, the tickets were a little more expensive, throw in COVID, there are several factors that could raise the apprehension of being out there. But I just want to come out here and support this team, support the Chiefs.”

Other Chiefs fans were also eager to celebrate the team’s Super Bowl victory from seven months ago. They wore Chiefs masks along with Patrick Mahomes jerseys, and many expressed confidence that the precautions put in place at the stadium would keep them safe.

“To be honest, I wouldn’t have missed it,” said Scott Gascich, a 56-year-old electrician from Kansas City, Missouri. “I’ve had season tickets since 1990, and I wasn’t going to miss the banner coming up, but we're still going to do what we're supposed to; we’re going to social distance, wear our mask.”

“I’ve always been a huge Chiefs fan. I don’t have any concerns about the coronavirus. I think with the social distancing things going on, we’ll be all right,” said Kory Noe, a car lot owner from Strafford, Missouri.

Across the country, many high schools have started football, but states like California and Illinois canceled the entire season. There have been scattered outbreaks among players, including an entire football team and marching band in a small town in Alabama that had to go into quarantine because of exposure to the virus.

Pennsylvania lawmakers have been sparring this week with the Democratic governor over coronavirus legislation that would give individual districts and private schools sole authority to decide how to conduct football and other sports.

For football-obsessed fans, the start of the season is a relief after being cooped up for months — an opportunity to gather with friends at bars, go to games and tailgate parties or head to sportsbooks to place bets. Sportsbooks are expecting a record-breaking season in terms of the amount of money wagered, driven by a public that’s eager for action after months of lockdowns.

And with each of these gatherings comes a greater health risk.

For fans, watching football on TV can be done safely and is a welcome way “to go back to normal things in our lives that we love and enjoy,” said Ali Mokdad, professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle.

For players, coaches and fans who venture into stadiums, a safe season hinges on what else people are willing to give up to lower the case numbers and control the level of community spread that could breed problems.

“If we want to enjoy our football, we have to sacrifice, or let go of certain things we used to do before — such as bars and crowded restaurants and places like this where we know infection is more likely to happen,” Mokdad said.

Kansas City Chiefs President Mark Donovan said that he hopes the opener will send a message to the country that teams can safely return to the playing field during a pandemic. He and other Chiefs executives had a phone conversation with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in which he expressed confidence in the team’s plan.

“His message to our fans on the call was just that: We need you to do it right. The sport needs you to do it right. And frankly, America needs us in Kansas City to do this right so we can prove that we can do more of this,” Donovan said.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious diseases expert at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, said the NFL has the resources to protect players by testing them frequently. He’s more concerned about fans cheering in the stands. Yelling spreads virus particles in the air. Even with a lot of empty seats in a stadium because of capacity limits, fans may need to stand in line for bathrooms or concessions where it’s difficult to stay 6 feet apart.

A few fans could carry home the virus and spread it to the broader community. Trying to stop an outbreak with contact tracing could swamp a public health department.

“You’re going to get cases and exposures,” Adalja said. “At a big event like a football game or a concert, you’re going to have chains of transmission that could get started and you have to have the infrastructure to do the contact tracing. Otherwise, it’s difficult to keep exposures from setting off chains of transmission.”

Athletic Director Jeremy Lewis got a firsthand look at the health risks associated with football gatherings last month when fans at American Fork High School in Utah were disregarding mask and social distancing requirements during a game. So Lewis grabbed the microphone during a quarter break to tell the crowd that play would not continue until fans complied with mask and social-distancing requirements.

“If you want to attend the game then agree to the policies that are in place,” Lewis said Thursday. “My guess is if the people can’t follow those policies then they’re going to end up not having spectators.”

In other developments:

—The University of Wisconsin-Madison is moving all classes online and quarantining students in two of its largest dorms as it deals with rising cases of COVID-19. According to UW-Madison data, 1,044 students and 26 employees have tested positive for the virus since Aug. 6.

—France, Greece and Israel are seeing surges in coronavirus infections. French health authorities reported 9,843 infections from the coronavirus in 24 hours, the highest daily tally since the end of France’s lockdown in April. In Greece, health officials announced the highest daily total of COVID-19 infections since the start of the pandemic. There's also a new record number of cases in Israel with just over 4,000 Thursday.

— U.S. health officials have started two new studies to test blood thinners to try to prevent strokes, heart attacks, blood clots and other complications in COVID-19 patients. Doctors increasingly are finding blood clots in people who died from COVID-19, along with signs of the damage they do to kidneys, lungs, blood vessels, the heart and other organs.

___

Johnson reported from Washington state. Galvan reported from Phoenix. Associated Press writer Sophia Eppolito in Salt Lake City, Utah, contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Football, AP Online Basketball, AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Health, AP World News, AP Sports - NFL, AP Sports - NBA
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Return of football renews fears over more virus spread
A football-starved nation is getting its games back with the start of the NFL season, but many worry that attending games or get-togethers will lead to a new surge in coronavirus infections
1:35PM ( 5 minutes ago )
Alec Baldwin and wife Hilaria welcome fifth child together
It’s a party of five for Alec and Hilaria Baldwin
1:35PM ( 5 minutes ago )
Greece to keep refugees on island after camp gutted by fire
The Greek government says thousands of migrants left homeless after fires gutted a sprawling refugee camp on the island of Lesbos will not be allowed to travel to mainland Greece
1:30PM ( 9 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Tour de France rookie Hirschi wins longest stage
Tour de France rookie Marc Hirschi won the longest stage with a bold solo breakaway on a previously unused sharp ascent
11:36AM ( 2 hours ago )
Tour de France rookie Hirschi wins race's longest stage
Tour de France rookie Marc Hirschi won the longest stage with a bold solo breakaway on a previously unused sharp ascent
11:20AM ( 2 hours ago )
Women's World Cup winner Nagasato joins men's club in Japan
Women’s World Cup winner Yuki Nagasato is joining Japanese men’s club Hayabusa Eleven on loan from the Chicago Red Stars in the NWSL
8:42AM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Sports
Corner lockdown: Ramsey gets 5 years, $105 million from Rams
Jalen Ramsey is becoming the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history after agreeing to a five-year, $105 million contract extension with the Los Angeles Rams
6:33PM ( 19 hours ago )
Steelers LB Ryan Shazier announces retirement
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier has announced his retirement nearly three years after a spinal injury put his career on indefinite hold
5:45PM ( 19 hours ago )
Ryan at 35: Falcons QB still performing at high level
By NFL standards, Matt Ryan is a senior citizen
5:24PM ( 20 hours ago )
AP Online Football
Mexico president regrets protester killing, wants justice
Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says he regrets the killing of a woman and the wounding of her husband in a clash with National Guard troops over water in the northern state of Chihuahua
12:34PM ( 1 hour ago )
Belgium to return tooth to family of slain Congolese icon
Authorities in Belgium say they will soon give relatives in Congo the only remains left of Congolese political icon Patrice Lumumba
12:03PM ( 1 hour ago )
Guatemala to reopen borders next week after 6 months
Guatemala plans to reopen its borders next week, six months after closing them in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus
12:00PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP World News
Jalen Ramsey gets 5-year, $105 million extension from Rams
Jalen Ramsey is becoming the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history after agreeing to a five-year, $105 million contract extension with the Los Angeles Rams
12:06PM ( 1 day ago )
Gamblers factoring virus into their football bets this fall
There’s a new factor in play for gamblers looking to bet on football this fall
10:06AM ( 1 day ago )
Colts' new kicker constructing new chapter as opener nears
Rodrigo Blankenship has some big shoes to fill for the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at Jacksonville
8:50PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Sports - NFL
Alec Baldwin and wife Hilaria welcome fifth child together
It’s a party of five for Alec and Hilaria Baldwin
1:35PM ( 5 minutes ago )
Greece to keep refugees on island after camp gutted by fire
The Greek government says thousands of migrants left homeless after fires gutted a sprawling refugee camp on the island of Lesbos will not be allowed to travel to mainland Greece
1:30PM ( 10 minutes ago )
Letters reveal public distaste for booze in JFK White House
Researchers at the John F
1:17PM ( 22 minutes ago )
Lawyers for ex-cops raise Floyd's history of crime, drug use
An attorney for one of four former Minneapolis officers charged in the death of George Floyd is highlighting Floyd's past crimes and history of drug use
1:16PM ( 24 minutes ago )
EU force intercepts tanker with jet fuel headed to Libya
The European Union maritime force enforcing the U.N. arms embargo on Libya says it intercepted and redirected a tanker headed for Libya
1:14PM ( 25 minutes ago )