With no requirements for vaccinations or masking enforced at Kenan Memorial Stadium this season, UNC football fans must weigh their passion for the team with public health risks.
UNC announced its fall athletics safety measures for fans last week. Masks and vaccinations are “strongly encouraged,” but the University stops short of requiring either measure for outdoor stadiums like Kenan Stadium.
The University claims safety is a priority and these guidelines will keep everyone safe. Yet it would allow roughly 51,000 people to fill every seat in Kenan Stadium.
CDC guidance states that individuals generally do not need to wear a mask outdoors. But in areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, it advises people to consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings. As of Monday, the CDC classified the level of COVID-19 community transmission as "high."
According to the CDC's considerations for events and gatherings, risk factors for exposure to COVID-19 include: extended contact within 6 feet with someone who has COVID-19, singing and shouting and a lack of consistent and correct mask-wearing.
A football stadium at full capacity unfortunately has all of these factors.
The lack of capacity restrictions or mandatory masking in such close quarters, even if outside, seems destined to cause harm to the campus and Chapel Hill communities. By last Thursday, daily COVID-19 cases at UNC had nearly quadrupled since the first day of classes.
Allowing thousands of unmasked individuals into a stadium undoes the work permanent residents have invested in keeping immunocompromised people and individuals who are unable to be vaccinated safe.
What is the good in requiring masks at local businesses and proof of vaccination at some restaurants when UNC is hosting a super-spreader event in Chapel Hill’s backyard?