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Was fan attendance at NFL video games in the course of the 2020-21 season related to subsequent spikes in COVID-19 instances?

A current examine printed in JAMA Community Open evaluated whether or not Nationwide Soccer League (NFL) attendance was related to the next incidence of coronavirus illness 2019 (COVID-19) instances.

Research: Affiliation of Nationwide Soccer League Fan Attendance With County-Stage COVID-19 Incidence within the 2020-2021 Season. Picture Credit score: David Lee/Shutterstock


When the NFL introduced taking part in a whole season in 2020, some deemed the choice lacked consideration of the well-being and well being of gamers, spectators, coaches, and workers members, whereas others wished stay matches again as a respite from the nervousness and stress because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The NFL carried out prevention, mitigation, and surveillance methods, together with steady viral testing and get in touch with tracing. Seemingly, the NFL maintained comparatively low an infection charges amongst workers and gamers and accomplished the season with out cancellations and severe issues.

Twenty NFL groups allowed diversified numbers of spectators to attend some or all residence matches in the course of the 2020-21 NFL season. There are restricted research evaluating the affiliation between COVID-19 and in-person sporting occasions. As an illustration, one examine utilizing mathematical fashions predicted that attending sporting occasions in particular person may elevate COVID-19 incidence to 822% throughout a school campus. Likewise, one other examine reported the affiliation between the variety of soccer matches and elevated COVID-19 incidence at universities/schools performed.

Concerning the examine

Within the current examine, researchers assessed the associations between in-person attendance of NFL video games and native COVID-19 transmission. They obtained information on US county-level every day cumulative COVID-19 instances from March 11, 2020, to March 1, 2021. Inhabitants information for 219 counties with an NFL stadium or these surrounding them had been assembled utilizing estimates from the 2019 US census.

COVID-19 charges had been computed in accordance with the present observe utilizing the every day variety of COVID-19 instances per 100,000 individuals for a county or a gaggle of counties. Knowledge on dates, areas, and attendance of 269 NFL video games had been accessed from Leisure and Sports activities Community (ESPN). Of those, 117 video games attended by followers had been assigned to the uncovered group and the remaining (video games) to the unexposed group. Match attendance diversified between 748 and 31,700 people.

The authors utilized a three-stage technique for evaluation. A low-pass filter method was adopted initially that required permutations of 7-, 14-, and 21-day easy shifting averages (SMAs) to be generated for counties internet hosting NFL groups, the encompassing counties the place followers seemingly stay, and a pooled sequence for host counties and people surrounding them.

The second stage leveraged the dates and areas of video games to arrange three temporal home windows (7-, 14-, and 21-day home windows) per recreation and seize outliers in the course of the interval from SARS-CoV-2 publicity to symptom onset and the official field recording after video games. The ultimate step used the Poisson precise method to check whether or not fan presence at NFL video games was linked to elevated COVID-19 instances and case charges in counties internet hosting the sport and surrounding counties.


For 269 NFL video games, 3,456-time sequence had been generated to seize the development and volatility related to COVID-19 incidence and charges in counties with NFL stadia and people surrounding them. These time sequence had been leveraged to guage whether or not the elevated incidence of COVID-19 instances and charges occurred in counties the place followers attended the NFL video games. The outcomes from completely different outlier detection methods supported that fan presence in NFL video games was related to episodic spikes in COVID-19 instances and charges.

Equally, there was proof supporting an elevated variety of spikes in COVID-19 instances related to fan-attended matches in surrounding counties. Outcomes of the general (pooled) counties had been similar to in-county and contiguous counties analyses. The authors noticed a noticeable absence of variations in outlier detection between uncovered and unexposed teams for the fast seven-day temporal window following the video games.

However, (most) checks that used 14-day and 21-day SMAs indicated a major improve within the incidence of spikes in COVID-19 instances and charges related to the uncovered group in counties the place NFL video games had been performed and people surrounding them. Additional, NFL video games with < 5000 fans attending were not associated with spikes in COVID-19 cases or rates. In contrast, games with > 20,000 followers attending had been related to spikes in COVID-19 instances in counties the place the video games had been performed.


In abstract, the researchers discovered little proof of spikes in COVID-19 incidence within the first seven days after the sport, however the findings had been placing for the 14- and 21-day post-game temporal home windows. Fan-attended video games had a lot increased charges of COVID-19 spikes in comparison with these with out followers.

Particularly, NFL video games with fewer than 5,000 spectators posed much less danger, whereas these with greater than 20,000 followers posed a considerably better danger, suggesting that occasions with giant crowds must be cautiously dealt with the place in situ testing, vaccines, and medical countermeasures usually are not available .


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