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From The Asian Reporter, V31, #5 (May 3, 2021), page 17.

Is it safe to go to big sporting events during the pandemic?

By Carla K. Johnson

The Associated Press

Is it safe to go to big sporting events during the pandemic?

Not yet, but there are ways to make it safer if you go.

"Yelling, chanting, hugging, and generally pouring out our sports enthusiasm is still not the safest activity," noted Jennifer Dowd, associate professor of population health at the University of Oxford and chief scientific officer of Dear Pandemic, a website that offers expert opinions.

If you do decide to go to a game, outdoor stadiums are safer than indoor arenas, which wonít be as well ventilated. Venues that limit attendance and require masks are safer as well. Some teams are requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test for the coronavirus.

Once at the stadium, avoid indoor bars, restaurants, and box seating, Dowd said. "Spaces that are indoors with lots of people eating and drinking without masks are still among the riskiest," she said.

Going to a game is much safer if youíre fully vaccinated, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But the agency advises wearing masks at crowded sports events regardless of whether youíve had your shots.

Evidence on the safety of big games is mixed. The NFL says it safely hosted 1.2 million fans at 119 games during the 2020 season. Some studies that havenít yet been vetted by outside experts have reached differing conclusions about whether the football season led to more infections. The study findings canít be certain, since they were based on disease rates in counties, not on contact tracing investigations.

Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said enough Americans will likely be fully vaccinated by June or July to see significant declines in transmission of the virus.

"The risk wonít go to zero," Hotez said, but it will drop enough that sporting events, restaurants, and larger gatherings may be much safer.

The CDC offers additional guidance to help sports fans make decisions as the pandemic continues, such as checking with event organizers about what safety measures are being taken. An important reminder: If you have symptoms, are waiting for a virus test result, or have been exposed to someone whoís infected, you should stay home, the CDC says.

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