In-person sporting events and gatherings cause concern

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The Phoenix Suns are the latest NBA team to welcome fans back to the stands. We also recently saw spectators on the course at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and in attendance at the Super Bowl. Is this good in the fight against COVID? We asked Dr. Shad Marvasti of the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine.

Not only were 22,000 fans in attendance at the Super Bowl, but large celebrations also broke out after the game. Watching this, Dr. Marvasti said he cringed. “I actually felt anxious given the fact that we’re still really not out of the woods with this pandemic and just not a good time to get all those folks together,” Dr. Marvasti said. He compares the holidays to the gatherings we saw, hoping we don’t see the cases rise as they did after the holidays.

The Waste Management Phoenix Open only allowed 5,000 people per day with masks being required. Dr. Marvasti said the outdoor nature of the event helps, but there are other crucial factors. “I think it’s not just about what happens at these events on the field. You can take your best precautions but it’s also about what happens off the field. In local gatherings that happen with folks coming from out of town, getting together with each other and having all of that, which contributes to increased spread. I think that’s really the issue here with any of these gatherings. People tend to get together outside of the actual venue, even if the guidelines are followed,” Dr. Marvasti said.

There are still questions surrounding the Cactus League’s Spring Training. Regardless of the plan, Dr. Marvasti is nervous. “I would feel more comfortable if they were able to support expanded vaccination programs and actually start with people who have already been vaccinated, in terms of who is allowed to attend,” Dr. Marvasti said.

Dr. Shad Marvasti, MPH/Director, Public Health, Prevention, & Health Promotion University of Arizona College of Medicine

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