A group of mayors from several Big Ten school communities signed a letter to the Big Ten Conference officials requesting practical measures to ensure safety from COVID-19 as the beginning of football season nears.
The group of 12 mayors — including East Lansing Mayor Aaron Stephens and Lansing Mayor Andy Schor — signed the letter Tuesday, five days before the first kick-off of the Big Ten season.
“While we all appreciate our college and university sports programs and the economic and community benefits that they provide, the COVID-19 crisis is far from over and we are expecting some potential new obstacles as a result of the upcoming football season,” Stephens said in a press release. “We hope that by continuing to work with our individual colleges and universities, our public health officials and the Big Ten Conference, we can be as prepared as possible for the return of football in our communities.”
In the letter, the mayors requested that the Big Ten Conference work with local health officials to define population positivity rates at which it is not safe to host a football game given the increased social activity that games tend to generate.
They also requested that the conference release game times and schedules as early as possible, and that games are hosted minimally or not at all in the late afternoon or evening, as these start times are linked to increased community activity.
“I think that those asks are reasonable, and I’m just hoping that we can have football, but do it in a safe way,” Stephens said.
The Big Ten Conference already announced several new medical protocols ahead of the season, including daily antigen testing for all persons on the field during competition, enhanced cardiac screening and a data-driven approach when it comes to decisions concerning practices and games.
The conference also announced that tickets will not be sold to the general public, and admittance to games will essentially be limited to family members.
Stephens said he is anticipating the return of football in terms of bringing community together in a socially distanced way.
“I think that football is going to bring a lot of really great things in terms of economic activity, as well as in terms of morale of people, bringing folks together — not literally, but more from a psychological point,” Stephens said. “It’s important to have some sense of community during this time, but that doesn’t mean that risks aren’t posed.”
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