A study of Nationwide Soccer League (NFL) house video games attended by 1.3 million followers means that these with excessive attendance had been tied to subsequent county-level COVID-19 surges in the course of the 2020-2021 season.
A staff led by a College of Southern Mississippi researcher analyzed information from all 32 NFL groups in the course of the 2020-2021 season, when some video games had been open to followers, and others had been closed due to the specter of viral transmission in crowded environments. The researchers plotted whole COVID-19 instances and charges utilizing 7-, 14-, and 21-day shifting averages for every staff in opposition to precise case numbers within the 219 host and surrounding counties.
The authors famous that 20 of 32 NFL groups allowed completely different numbers of followers to attend some or all house video games and carried out security and well being procedures, together with sanitation, crowd management, and bodily distancing. Two groups, the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, allowed greater than 20,000 followers at a time to attend their video games. The examine interval was earlier than the emergence of the extra extremely transmissible Delta and Omicron variants.
Video games with fewer than 5,000 followers not implicated
Of 269 video games, 117 included followers, and 152 didn’t. Fan attendance, which ranged from 748 to 31,700, was linked to COVID-19 case spikes and charges within the subsequent 14 days within the host county (case charge ratio [RR], 1.36), adjoining counties (case RR, 1.31; charge RR,1.41), and pooled counties (case RR, 1.45; charge RR, 1.72).
Attended video games had been additionally related to case surges within the 21 days after the sport within the host county (case RR, 1.49; charge RR, 1.50), neighboring counties (case RR, 1.37: charge RR, 1.45), and pooled counties (case RR, 1.41; charge RR, 1.70). Video games with fewer than 5,000 followers weren’t tied to spikes, however counties with groups internet hosting a minimum of 20,000 followers noticed COVID-19 spike charges that had been 2.23 instances greater than these with decrease attendance.
The authors stated the findings spotlight the significance of taking a holistic strategy to managing public occasions throughout an infectious illness outbreak earlier than vaccines and fast testing can be found.
“The spikes in COVID-19 for crowds of over 20,000 folks counsel that giant occasions needs to be dealt with with excessive warning throughout public well being occasion(s) the place vaccines, on-site testing, and numerous countermeasures usually are not available to the general public,” the researchers wrote.
Public well being questions stay
In a associated commentary, Stephanie Johnson, MPH, and Eric Lofgren, MSPH, PhD, each of Washington State College, stated that gathering proof on the results of recreation attendance is essential for public well being decision-makers as they stability security with growing strain to return to regular.
However they cautioned that the causal relationship between fan attendance and the next COVID-19 spikes is simply inferential. “It’s attainable, for instance, that the noticed spike in COVID-19 instances and fan attendance had been each pushed by some third confounding issue—for instance, a inhabitants with a low common notion of an infection threat or the enjoyable of native public well being measures typically over the identical interval,” they wrote.
As such, it stays troublesome to parse any suggestions from the info, Johnson and Lofgren stated: “Public well being decision-makers nonetheless lack concrete proof for attributing a spike in any instances to 1 a part of the general soccer fan expertise. For instance, would a ban on tailgating or different modifications to the gameday expertise meaningfully mitigate the unfold of COVID-19 at soccer video games attended by followers?”