Following Wednesday’s announcement that Big Ten football will resume in late October, several Madison and Dane county officials have voiced concerns that the return of Badger football could lead to an increase in cases of COVID-19.
“We’ve already seen a record number of cases from the UW campus just from students moving in,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. "While we all love our football Saturdays, the festivities that come with them are going to serve as new spreading events within our community. We have a lot of sick UW students right now — 88% of those who have tested positive are reporting symptoms — and this is before the weather gets colder and flu season arrives."
The city has since issued a statement discouraging students, as well as the general population of Dane county, from attending events associated with games in order to stem rates of infection. Public Health Madison & Dane County specifically recommended that UW students and residents do not gather with others to watch Badger football.
“The decision to hold the football season right now has wide-reaching impacts beyond athlete and student safety and will impact the health and safety of many people in Dane County. We strongly urge everyone to prioritize the health and wellbeing of all people in their decision-making,” the city’s statement read.
In an interview with Channel 3000 news, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway similarly discouraged individuals from taking part in festivities associated with college football.
“We’re not [in] a situation where it's acceptable for us to have tailgating parties. If I thought there was a real way to do football without social gatherings happening, I’d be all for it,” Rhodes-Conway said. “But we can’t accept fans in the stands or any sort of parties. The bottom line is our health is the most important thing. We love our football but our health is more important.”
Rhodes-Conway also promised greater enforcement of patron capacity limits for restaurants and bars set by Dane County’s 9th emergency order in order to prevent mass gatherings from taking place on game days and weekends.
“We are taking actions to move forward on enforcement against any establishment, particularly bars, that are breaking the public health order. I think you’ll start to see more enforcement of that in the coming days,” she concluded.
The return of football later this fall has also raised concerns about the health of student athletes and staff, 42 of which have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 since training began earlier this month. The Badger football team has not released a statement discussing plans to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among its players and staff.