Assessing Risk in Partially Full Stadiums and Arenas

While phase 1 of the return of live sports goes on without spectators, most organizations are developing plans for fans’ return to seats at greatly reduced capacity. But what if that may not be enough to mitigate COVID risks? Derek Thompson’s well researched piece for the Atlantic confirms that the greatest risk of transmission comes from airborne respiratory droplets. There has been a growing consensus around this fact, hence moves for reduced capacity. But this is a particularly damning fact for sports:

In a study subsequently published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report”, researchers emphasized that “the act of singing, itself,” might have contributed to transmission, because choir members were belting out more of the virus. Some people—known as “superemitters”—release more particles into the air when they speak, because they are unusually loud or slobbery talkers. But even normal gabbers can release an exceptional number of droplets if they’re singing or theatrically projecting their voice.

What’s the point of going to a game if we can’t root and cheer loudly? How on earth are we supposed to suppress our deep-seated instinct to shout ‘YANKEES SUCK’ at the top of our lungs? Spreading fans out can only go so far, especially in indoor settings. Here’s hoping for more research and better understanding before we rush to get butts back in seats.

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