It is far too early to be fully reopening stadiums

 We’ve been making slow but steady progress in the fight against coronavirus, but a full reopening of stadia nationwide threatens to throw a colossal wrench in those plans.

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Joseph Loverdi

As stadiums begin to reopen, whether partially or fully, the question remains: is it actually safe? Joe Loverdi says no.

It’s February 19, 2020. You’re a proud Atalanta supporter who’s sitting in the vaunted San Siro in Milan (Atalanta’s home ground, Stadio di Bergamo, is too small), and your team has just demolished Spanish side Valencia 4-1 in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16. The stadium is packed with over 40,000 fellow Bergamasco just like you who are reveling in the result; Atalanta had never made the Champions League before this season and went on a miraculous run to finish second in Group C and make the knockout stage. 

 Little did you and your fellow fans know that a month later, Bergamo would be ravaged by COVID-19, with 7,000 positive tests and 1,000 dead (out of 122,000). That match became the first notorious superspreader event; in fact, “Game Zero” saw a third of Valencia’s players and staff come home to positive tests and the second leg was played at an empty Mestalla. 

 So to hear the news that some stadiums are reopening with full attendance (Globe Life Field, which can sit 40,518- larger than the San Siro- is the most notable) is quite scary and could lead to many more Game Zeroes. Any Texas Rangers home game has the potential to be a superspreader event at any given time, and considering the fact that the MLB is planning to hold a full 162 game season, 81 superspreader events in the span of 5 to 6 months is something we cannot risk. 

 While I do agree that watching sports on TV with no real atmosphere due to the absence of fans is boring, we need to reopen stadiums slowly rather than fully reopening a stadium that could fit all of Voorhees, Berlin, and Gibbsboro combined (with room to spare). 

The ideal way to reopen stadiums is to do it slowly, with a limited capacity (fans being spread out from each other) and strict mask mandates. Many stadiums are doing that, like Fenway Park (15% capacity), basically every stadium in New York (10% capacity), and Philly stadiums (between 5 to 10%, with a maximum limit of 2,500). This way, fans can enjoy games in-person and bring back the atmosphere we missed during lockdown with a minimized risk of spreading the virus. 

  I don’t care about the economic ramifications of reopening stadiums slowly; there are human lives at risk if a stadium the size of Lambeau (capacity of 81,435, which if fully packed would be more populated than 11 countries) throws all caution to the wind. 

 Throw in the slow rollout of vaccines in the United States (only 12.3% of Americans are fully vaccinated, although the situation has been clearing up as of late with the US inching closer to 100 million vaccinated) and it should be evidently clear that a stadium at even 50% capacity or higher is a superspreader event waiting to occur. We all miss being at stadiums and cheering on our beloved sports teams; America is a nation united by its common interest in sport, after all. However, with some states seeing upticks in new cases as of late (New Jersey being one of them), it is still far too early to let tens of thousands of people into closed spaces.

 We’ve been making slow but steady progress in the fight against coronavirus, but a full reopening of stadia nationwide threatens to throw a colossal wrench in those plans. Game Zeroes must be a thing of the past.