College football fans and lore are back, even with Covid-19 still here

College football and its crowd traditions have regained all their glory as in 2019, before Covid-19 restrictions severely limited fan attendance in 2020.

Some of the nation’s biggest powers – including Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma, to name a few – are hosting games at full capacity on Saturday. And fans who attend these games won’t have to prove their vaccine status, won’t be required to socially distance themselves, and won’t have to wear masks in their seats.

The return of college football and its unique cultures, which began in earnest last week, is a source of common bonds for sports fans, but it is also a source of anxiety for others.

Generally speaking, large gatherings with people nearby pose a higher risk of Covid-19, although the stadium’s exterior settings mitigate this risk. The level of risk also depends on each person’s immunization status, use of the mask, and the health of their own immune system. Health experts recommend anyone attending a sporting event to avoid rear hatches, concession stands, and other crowded indoor areas.

The University of Georgia football team, now ranked No.2 in the country, will play their first home game on Saturday at the 92,746-seat Sanford Stadium in Athens against the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

Last year’s home games were played with around 20-25% capacity, but there are no such limits for this year’s home games. The university system has also not mandated vaccines for students, and the state is one of the least vaccinated in the country – issues that have added concerns to high-risk community members.

“The football season that is falling on us is a cause of great terror,” said Usree Bhattacharya, UGA assistant professor in the Department of Language Education and Literacy, whose 5-year-old daughter has a problem of rare health.

In an interview with CNN, she began to cry as she called on Georgia’s university system to demand masks and vaccines to better protect people like her daughter, who wears a mask when others are not required to.

“I don’t understand why we ask little children to take on responsibilities that adults are not in our community,” she said.

The two sides of the return to sport

Georgia’s general lack of Covid-19 rules is in line with most of its fellow Southeastern Conference schools, which are spread across states with some of the lowest vaccination rates in the United States. In the SEC, only Louisiana State University requires game participants over the age of 12 to provide proof of Covid-19 vaccination or a negative PCR test to attend in person. Vanderbilt is the only SEC school with a vaccine mandate for students, faculty and staff on campus.

The SEC and NCAA left schools to make their own decisions – based on local and state requirements – when asked what each is doing to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 during football games. Both have Covid-19 protocols for student-athletes.

“My request to our fans is to try to take advantage of what science has done,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said last month.

Georgia’s plan to accommodate such a large crowd comes as the state has fully immunized about half of its residents aged 12 and older, one of the 10 lowest vaccination rates of any state, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Athens-Clarke County, where the Bulldogs play, has a “high” rate of community transmission of Covid-19, according to the CDC.

Last week marked the full opening of the college football season, and stadiums across the country were filled with fans eager to join the common sporting experience.

In Georgia, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta hosted nearly 72,000 fans for an Alabama-Miami game on Saturday and about 31,000 fans for the Louisville-Ole Miss game on Monday. In both matches, the stadium roof was open and masks were required in confined spaces but not in outdoor areas, and there was no vaccine requirement.
A number of universities that have packed fans into seats this season are requiring students to be vaccinated, including at the Big Ten large schools in Michigan (109,000 participants), Maryland (44,000) and Illinois. (41,000).

These schools do little to innovate by organizing crowded games. The National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball have also been hosting full capacity events this summer, and the National Football League will do so when the season begins later this week.

No mandate for vaccines or masks at the UGA

The Georgia University System, which operates state colleges and universities, has urged all students, faculty, and staff to get vaccinated and encouraged people to wear masks inside campus facilities. But he stopped demanding vaccinations or masks.

The system followed the general policy put forward by Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, who resisted the imposition of vaccines or the use of masks.

The UGA football team has also had its own problems controlling the disease. Coach Kirby Smart said last month that more than 90% of the team were vaccinated. Still, he said this week the team had experienced its “highest peak” in Covid-19 cases and that several vaccinated players and staff had been diagnosed with groundbreaking cases.
What to know before going to a football match or other sporting event, whether or not you are vaccinated
“This is the highest level we’ve reached since fall camp right now,” he said, according to CNN affiliate WXIA. “I think there’s this relief that you feel like it’s all back to normal, well, it’s really not for us right now.”

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Tuesday he didn’t think it was “smart” to attend a crowded sporting event.

“The outdoors is always better than the indoors, but even when you have such a close-knit gathering setting you need to be vaccinated first, and when you have gathering settings, especially at the indoors, you should wear a mask, ”he said. .

He encouraged people to get vaccinated and said he expects more local communities to mandate vaccines.

“There are going to be sporting events, travel events, where the rule will be if you want to participate, you get vaccinated,” Fauci said. “Otherwise, sorry, you won’t be able to do it. And I think when we have more and more of them, I think we will start to see a big decrease in the number of cases.”

CNN’s Kevin Dotson, Virginia Langmaid and Amir Vera contributed to this report.

About Fredrick Sizemore

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