No sign of spikes in COVID-19 cases among NCAA & NFL games with limited attendance

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — A new study published in The Journal of American Association (JAMA) Open Network says games with in-person attendance were not followed by spikes in COVID-19 cases in surrounding communities.

Study authors matched up counties that hosted games with fans in 2020 and 2021 with counties that had only hosted football events with no fans in attendance. Authors looked at 796 NFL and NCAA games, with 528 of those contests having live fans in the seats. Then, they used an algorithm to match up counties, producing 361 pairs in all.

The research team to concluded that allowing live fans back into events did not have a significant effect on COVID cases. The games with live fans did not surpass five new daily cases of the virus per 100,000 residents on average. No evidence appeared indicating a consistent increase in local COVID-19 cases following limited attendance at both NFL or NCAA games

“Our study’s conclusions can inform fan attendance policies for the 2021 football season. In-person attendance can be safe as long as social distancing is maintained,” says Jagpreet Chhatwal, PhD, one of the authors of the study says in a media release.

Authors of the study believe that limited in-person attendance, strict mask use, and open air helped to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during NFL and NCAA events.

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