KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Sunday finally felt like football season in the Chiefs Kingdom. Fans fired up tailgates and packed the upgraded GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
After a year away, Sunday’s game was the first since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic for many fans. By the sounds of Arrowhead, they were ready to return.
“I have never in my life seen a stadium like this or even a tailgate like this and I’ve been to many tailgates in my life, and nothing is like this energy,” Sydney Keating said about her first ever trip to Arrowhead. “Every single person is excited to be around every single person . There’s not judgement – it’s only love.”
Since masks are not required outdoors at Arrowhead, including in the majority of the stadium’s seats, there is hope that the Chiefs game won’t become a COVID-19 super-spreader.
Chief Medical Officer at the University of Kansas Health System Dr. Steve Stites, who was at Sunday’s game to cheer the Chiefs, said he doesn’t expect a massive COVID-19 cluster to develop from the game.
“I went there and when I was inside, wore my mask,” Stites said during the system’s daily COVID-19 update. “Outside I tried to wear a mask. I started sweating all the way through. I took it off, the breeze was going, I felt safe, got back ready to go inside again, arrived at a concourse, a really thick crowd walking around, I put my mask back on.”
Stites said it’s the outdoor portion of the equation that is key when it comes to COVID. He said there is evidence that outdoor events don’t come with the same risks that inside events do, even if there are thousands more people in attendance.
“I go to the Lollapalooza data that when people are outside, things go pretty well. Most events outside go pretty well,” Stites said. “Royals games have not produced a big COVID outbreak, and I think it’s Sporting, same thing, no big COVID outbreak. And you know people are gonna be close together and screaming at a Sporting game. I think that’s gonna be the answer I think that outside is just different because of the dynamics there.”
Experts warn attending outside events is not an excuse to skip a vaccination. They say that by being fully vaccinated, you protect yourself from death and hospitalization if you get COVID-19.
Over the past few weeks, Stites and other doctors with the University of Kansas Health System warned that the delta variant is different. They say it’s no longer necessarily about stopping the spread of COVID-19. They say it’s about trying to keep people healthy enough so if they get the delta variant they don’t become so sick. If people are healthy enough to stay home and recover, hospitals can be used for only the sickest patients and won’t become overwhelmed.