INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — If the NFL season opener in Tampa on Thursday is any indication, this weekend‘s Colts home opener will be packed with fans.
Officials say tickets are already sold out for the back-to-full-capacity venue. That’s 67,000 fans that the Indiana State Department of Health hopes won’t turn up sick Monday morning.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not specifically have guidance about sporting events but in general, doesn’t recommend attending large gatherings. It says if you go, consider wearing a mask and get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Right now, about 54% of eligible people in Indiana are fully vaccinated, or about 3.1 million people. There are more women than men with the shot and, age-wise, the highest numbers are in age groups over 55.
Average COVID-19 cases have been dropping slightly since the start of the month but most counties in the state are still considered a high transmission zone.
Health experts say now is not the time to go back to big crowds, including infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“I don’t think it’s smart. Outdoors is always better than indoors but even when you have such a congregate setting of people close together, you should be vaccinated. And when you do have congregate settings particularly indoors, you should be wearing a mask,” Fauci said.
He believes there’s a responsible way to cheer on sports teams: He said several teams, colleges and venues are requiring the vaccine in order to attend.
Schools including Indiana University and IUPUI are requiring all students and staff to have the vaccine.
Venues have their own rules, too. Lucas Oil Stadium recommends masks but doesn’t require them, and won’t offer a health screening such as a temperature check when you walk in the door. There is a large COVID-19 risk warning posted to the Colts website saying guests voluntarily assume the risk of contracting the virus that could result in injury or death.
If you’re still attending the game, CDC guidelines would indicate that tailgating outdoors with a few friends is one of the safer things to do, while hugging and high-fiving neighbors in the stadium or moving through a crowded concourse would be the most risky.
Game time is 1 p.m. Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium against the Seattle Seahawks.