It is no secret that at the Oct. 3 home opener versus Auburn many students did not choose to wear a mask inside Sanford Stadium. As of now, there is not a policy that mandates fans to wear a mask while they watch the game. The maskless students prompted backlash across the internet from news outlets to social media. Many professional sports leagues and some colleges have prohibited fans from attending games at all.
Even with a mask on, it is still highly risky to have large gatherings of people in one area. Therefore, it is a privilege for fans to attend sporting events. If fans want to continue to attend home games, then they must be required to wear masks. Otherwise, they pose a health risk to those around them by spreading the virus faster.
Currently, Sanford Stadium allows between 20%-25% capacity, which is inline with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention policy. There are numerous sanitizing stations inside the stadium, and students are supposed to be spread out in the stands. The current policies are that masks must be worn while entering the stadium and when leaving the seating location to use the bathroom or concession stand. However, masks are not mandated when spectators arrive at their seating location.
Moreover, the University of Georgia requires that masks must be worn inside of all buildings on campus, but the same rules do not apply to football games. Just because the event is taking place outdoors should not change the mask policy. If there were to be any place to have a mask mandate, it would be in the seating area of the stadium.
COVID-19 will continue to spread by allowing fans to continue being maskless. Some may argue that wearing a mask may be uncomfortable, however, players who go in and out of the game wear masks on the sidelines. These times are not about what is fashionable or comfortable, but instead, they are about health and safety.
For instance, students are required to wear a mask while working out at the Ramsey Student Center, which means that if students can wear masks while working out, they can wear them while watching football. Fighting the pandemic is a collective effort, so all sports leagues should require masks inside their arenas.
Additionally, it was evident that many students did not comply with the social distancing rules put in place. On Oct. 3 during the college football matchup between Southern Methodist University and Memphis, fans were escorted out of the stadium. Police forced out the student section at the game in the late first half for not complying with mask-wearing and social distancing protocols. UGA fans could potentially face the same treatment if they continue to not follow protocols.
UGA has worked hard to provide a safe watching environment for students and spectators. It is now time for all of us to do the same and cooperate. If there is no cooperation, then the protocols were created for nothing.
Despite the rough start for COVID-19 cases at UGA, there were 92 new cases the week of Oct. 5-11. However, if the trends of a lack of social distancing and maskless fans continue, then the number is almost guaranteed to rise.