Following yesterday’s decision to hold a Big 10 football season, local medical experts expressed concerns Thursday about people gathering in groups to watch and play the games.
Public Health Madison and Dane County said in a statement the decision to hold Badger football games in October sparked excitement among members of the Madison community, but this excitement needs to be paired with caution.
The safety of the players is a concern of the University of Wisconsin, Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in a statement, and it will continue to be a cause of concern as the season ramps up, she said.
Since June, 42 players and staff have tested positive for COVID-19, according to PHMDC. Twenty-nine positive tests occurred between Sept. 1 and Sept. 15.
UW Health Chief Quality Officer Jeff Pothof said the environment on the field is much easier to control than what happens off the field.
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“College game day is a focal point that kicks off a lot of gatherings,” Pothof said. “A lot of people like to get together, cheer on the Badgers. That is probably where the bigger risk is.”
While Badger fans look forward to watching the team out on the field, PHMDC said in a statement that the season cannot look the same as it always has.
In the statement, Director of Public Health Madison and Dane County Janel Heinrich expressed the need for groups to follow COVID-19 guidelines and precautions.
“The reality is that it’s not possible to have a traditional football season without substantially increasing COVID-19 transmission,” Heinrich said in the statement. “We value people’s health and lives over sports, and we hope that UW does as well.”
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UW students’ responses to these warnings impact the community at large, according to a statement from UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank.
According to NBC15, Madison bars tend to be popular gathering places for students and other fans to have viewing parties during football games. Sconnie Bar General Manager Lucas Simon-Wambach said he felt excited to be able to host fans in an interview with NBC15.
“We are still excited to have Badger football to show it on the TVs, still having people here in Badger red cheering on the team and having a good time,” Simon-Wambach said to NBC15.
Though bars can only open at 25% capacity under Dane County’s public health order, Pothof expressed concern about how well these restrictions will be enforced.
“It’s one thing to have a rule, it’s another thing to be able to enforce it. For a bar owner it may be really difficult to limit that,” Pothof said. “The exact conditions that you’re trying to prevent on the football field, you’ve created outside of the stadium with all the fans and members of the community.”