Sports have been one of the biggest lifestyle casualties of the coronavirus pandemic.
Many of us are yearning for the day when we can go to a football, baseball, or basketball game…or even watch one on TV.
Sports fans are so desperate for entertainment that Russian table tennis, which is broadcast over the internet, has become the most-wagered sport worldwide.
Major American sports leagues are pulling together plans to reopen in the coming months. The question is, is it safe?
A new study may provide the answer.
It looked at how the flu spread in cities hosting NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL games.
The coronavirus is not the flu. It is more contagious. And you are at least 10 times more likely to die if you get COVID-19 than if you get the flu.
But both viruses spread in a similar way, through airborne respiratory droplets and to a lesser extent from contaminated surfaces.
The study examined flu deaths in cities that acquired new sports franchises from one of the big four leagues over the last 54 years.
Cities getting a new team saw flu deaths immediately jump by up to 24%. And cities with pro teams had fewer flu deaths when there were season stoppages, such as during the 2011 NBA lockout and the 1982 NFL strike.
‘You Could Be Putting the Virus Right Into Your Mouth’
Professor Brad Humphreys was one of the study authors. He points out that sporting events didn’t cause just a few more fatalities. “This is closer to 30 or 40 additional flu deaths over the course of flu season.
“When you blow it up to a virus that’s more fatal like COVID-19, we could be talking about hundreds of additional deaths because of these games.”
Opening pro sports to the public right now “is probably a terrible idea” said Professor Humphreys.
“You’re right on top of people and everybody’s yelling, screaming, high-fiving and hugging. And you’ve got people eating and drinking. You could be putting the virus right into your mouth. The bottom line is we need to be very careful if we’re considering opening up games to the fans.”
Doctors in Italy believe the country’s early spike of COVID-19 cases was due to a well-attended soccer match.
The day before the Feb. 19 match, there were just three known cases in the country. Two weeks later, there were 997 just in Bergamo, the hometown of one of the teams.
“That game served as a super-spreader event,” said Professor Humphreys. Afterward, Bergamo had “the highest death rate anywhere in the world.”
The NBA and the NHL plan to resume their seasons this summer without fans attending. MLB also plans to play games in empty stadiums, except in Texas where Gov. Gregg Abbott has said he wants to allow fans to attend.
The NFL and college football have not yet announced whether this fall’s games will be played in front of spectators.
Professor Humphreys says even if fans wore masks, going to a football game is unsafe.
“You’ve seen how people are complying with that, right?” he said. “And if these arenas are at full capacity, social distancing isn’t happening.”
The bottom line?
Don’t go to a crowded event of any kind until coronavirus cases have significantly fallen in your area.
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