Large crowds at Football games

I understand everyone is fed up with Covid restrictions. Acting like it’s gone isn’t the answer. My state has nearly reached capacity for ICU beds. It varies day by day.

I hope college football crowds aren’t the next super spreaders.

Peak, peak, insanity.

I’m of multiple minds on this.

I am a very aggressive covid-restriction advocate. Mask mandates, vaccine requirements for flights, restaurants, most jobs, yada yada yada. A crowd like this is dismaying.

On the other hand: this university claims to enforce vaccination for enrollment, which means everyone in the crowd has gotten the jab (give or take an exception). Essentially, this is a picture of the future.

We can’t stay in pandemic protection mode forever. At some point we’ll drop the masks and distancing, and this crowd shows us what that looks like. Covid will circulate freely, and a lot of people will get sick. While some will die, most will be more or less protected by the vaccine and come through. That, explicitly, will be the world’s new normal.

On the gripping hand: The rest of the population isn’t as fully protected. Those students are going to interact with other people who are unvaccinated, and those people will suffer more greatly. If anything, a crowd like this is premature — but eventually, in a year or five, we’ll be back to doing this as widespread normal behavior. In other words, the question here is not whether to do this — the question is when.

Both being outdoors, and everyone (or at least, nearly so) in the crowd being vaccinated, would mitigate the risk. Plus, of course, if they’re mostly students, then they’re already part of a tight-knit community, with corresponding levels of transmission within the community, so the baseline to compare to might be higher.

Is that enough mitigation? I don’t know; I’m not an epidemiologist.

One point to keep in mind is that, while vaccination is not a sure protection against transmission, a person being vaccinated is both less likely to catch an infection, and also less likely to pass on an infection if they do catch it. So the transmission rate in a community is nonlinear with the percentage of the community that’s vaccinated, because you’re decreasing the odds on both ends. And then once you calculate that transmission rate, the number of people who will eventually get the disease is nonlinear with the transmission rate: There’s a world of difference between a transmission rate slightly higher than 1, and one slightly lower. Which makes it at least plausible that a crowd is actually safe, if they’re all or almost all vaccinated.

I’d probably still at least require masks, just to be on the safe side.

That may be true in the student section, but many non-students also attend the games. I think students typically make up less than half of the attendees. If the non-students have typical vaccination rates, then maybe 50-60% of those are vaccinated. So maybe overall there’s around 25-35% unvaccinated in the crowd?

Depends on the school; in several states, the governors have forbidden State and local institutions from requiring vaccinations or even masks.

So I wouldn’t be surprised if say… the Texas A&M - Kent State game with attendance of roughly 97,000 was a massive spreading event as a result. And in particular, A&M has enough benighted hillbillies who go there (as an Aggie, I feel like I can say that) and are likely rabid Trumpers and anti-vax types, that it’ll be something that exports COVID into communities across the state.

The student section at Kyle Field, where Texas A&M plays football, reserves about 26% of their tickets for students. This at a school that is famous for how large their student section is. The largest college football stadium, at Michigan, has over 107,000 seats, 15,000 of which are reserved for students. I’m guessing at most big stadiums, the number is closer to 15%.

I will note that it’s always possible that students sometimes buy regular admission tickets, but many schools, including Alabama not too long ago, have the opposite problem, filling student seats. That and the fact that regular admission tickets are at a fairly insane price for your typical student leaves me to believe my numbers are pretty close.

Particularly at the bigger schools, with big stadiums. A lot of the schools in the “Power Five” conferences (SEC, ACC, Big 10, Pac 12, Big 12) have stadiums with a capacity of 60,000+ (and some hold over 100,000).

When I attended Wisconsin, the student section at Camp Randall Stadium was maybe 20% of the stadium’s capacity, and the rest of the stadium would be filled with alumni and other non-student fans; I suspect that that’s pretty typical for the top football programs.

Edit: ninjaed by @DMC, who made similar observations

Yeah, as others have said, lots of non-students attend those games. You’re in close proximity to other people. You’re yelling and around other people who are yelling. You’re probably visiting the restrooms a time or two. It’s outdoors, at least, but with delta variant, that positive is canceled out by the mass of people around you who are exhaling a variant that has 1,200 times the viral load than the original COVID virus. I’m okay with half-capacity or even a little more than that, or even better, vaccine and temperature checks, which might justify allowing crowd sizes closer to capacity.

COVID is everywhere. There is no virgin territory. If you want to talk these sorts of events, you’re pretty much talking about the individual people at these events, full stop. It’s not 2020 any more.

Increasingly, it’s going to be up to the individual to protect yourself. Governments might step in if community spread is high. But if you don’t feel safe, don’t go. Others will make their own decisions. But lockdowns to protect other people from themselves aren’t going to happen.

I don’t know if I agree with that; it doesn’t stand to reason that if you cram nearly 100,000 people together and have them yelling, screaming and singing for several hours, that you significantly increase the chances of COVID spreading between them. And that these people will then take it back to their own communities, along different paths than it otherwise might have taken.

I’m not trying to imply that it’s only a problem of urban areas or that it’s not widespread. I’m saying that this exposes more people, and they’re going to take it back to where they’re from and expose others, in a way that going to the grocery store or feed store wouldn’t.

Still disagreeing that there are virgin territories left for Covid to explore. If you want to focus on these sorts of events itself, that’s fine, but I think this is a dead line at this point.

They said that for a good portion 2020 as well. Might as well just say it - we’re basically giving up and letting things run wild. It’s not that there aren’t ‘virgin territories’ but there are still pockets of people who are vulnerable to re-infection and we’re also creating breeding grounds for new variants.

There are going to be some portions of the population who are vaccinated who get infected and die because of this but, as a society, we’ve decided that level of responsible personal behavior doesn’t matter. And we may well see some new, more virulent strain develop, but again, we’ve collectively decided that doesn’t matter.

People need to let go of the variants issue. Variants can occur in any corner of the world. Siberia, Chile, Uganda. It’s all people. Do you really think we’re going to vaccinate everyone so variants never occur. Let it go. We just need to do our best on the issue.

Vaccination is pretty much endgame. It’s the best we can do. Let it go.

As I said, we’ve just decided to give up. Thanks for confirming.

No, we probably won’t vaccinate everyone. What we should do before we adopt your ‘everything goes’ approach is give everyone a fair shake at getting vaccinated. It needs to be approved (at least on an emergency basis) for everyone in the United States. I’ve been hearing February as a reasonable target for the 6mo - 5yr crowd. We’re currently around 5.5 billion doses given worldwide, at pacing about 1.2 billion more per month. I’m not sure off-hand what the mix is there between one- and two-dose vaccines, but that probably adds up to somewhere in the March/April timeframe just from a production standpoint for everyone to have an opportunity to get their shot(s).

In a world where vaccination rates are very high, but covid is still endemic, variants may occur. But much less frequently than what we’re seeing today, where the virus is just running rampant everywhere.

Arguing that ‘we should just let go’ of the ‘variants’ issue when we were on the doorstep of a normal life before delta hit hard seems … out-of-touch.

I’m beginning to accept that Covid will be with us for several more years.

The lack of universal vaccination ensures new varients will continue to emerge.

We can’t shut down the economy for that long. Businesses have to find ways to operate safely.

I’m not convinced we need full stadiums at sporting events. We’ll find out in the next few weeks if Covid cases significantly increase.

Watched a bit of a Washington State - Utah State football game last Saturday evening. Despite a statewide mandate for masks indoors and large groups outside, it was shocking how many in the crowd were not wearing masks. The color guy for the game even mentioned that the stadium announcer was encouraging folks to wear their masks but this was being met with a lot of booing.

Yeah, we watched parts of a couple games over the weekend and commented on the crowds and apparent lack of masking. I was thinking anyone who put on a mask was likely shamed into removing it, or saw no one else was masking, so just joined-in with the crowd. I don’t know how factual that assumption is.

The contrast for me was knowing in other places in the world they are doing varying levels of lockdown, right now, but here in 'Murica we have our freedoms, to go to football games. What do people in other countries think when they see images of these stadiums over the weekend? Pandemic is over in the US?

England currently has no such restrictions on gatherings.