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COVID Risk Concerns Rise at Iowa's Kinnick Stadium

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University of Iowa freshman Jessica Anderson was a bit unnerved by the sight of 68,000 fans at Kinnick Stadium last Saturday. As a concessions worker, she had to be there, but concessions workers didn't have to wear face coverings if they were fully vaccinated.

Anderson told The Daily Iowan campus newspaper that a scarcity of mask usage was concerning, especially for people working in the food service areas of the stadium.

“With so many people in one place and having to lean in close to hear their orders through all of the sounds going around, it very well could have ended with a case of COVID,” Anderson told news reporter Kate Perez. “The stands were at full capacity and no masks required, so there were tons of people in one place, handling food and drinks. It seems like the perfect circumstances for COVID-19 to surge.”

The Hawkeyes opened the season Sept. 4 against Indiana Sept. 4. A return to in-person fan experiences was much anticipated. That two Big Ten Conference rivals ranked in the nation's top 20 were meeting head to head in the opener only heightened the anticipation. Whether a surge resulted has not been immediately clear, however according to The New York Times, more new cases (337) were reported in Johnson County on Sept. 8 than at any point during the pandemic.

Anderson told The Daily Iowan that the university could have more restrictions in place to lessen the potential spread of COVID-19 at the games.

“I think limiting capacity to every other row could be a good start. I know that would reduce their money intake but with less seats available they could make ticket prices higher possibly,” she said. “Just trying to keep people spread out so they don’t have to sit right next to strangers.”

And Anderson is not alone in her unease.

Johnson County public health director Danielle Pettit-Majewski said she was also concerned after seeing the stadium at full capacity this weekend.

“When you get 70,000 people into close quarters during a pandemic, even outdoors, there’s concern,” Pettit-Majewski told The Daily Iowan. “Considering we are already seeing surges and increases in our cases here, we are concerned.”

Pettit-Majewski said the game isn’t the only potential for COVID-19 transmission throughout Johnson County.

“People are out celebrating, going to bars, restaurants, so it wasn’t just 70,000 people in the stadium, but it was all over,” Pettit-Majewski said. “I’m an Iowa alum, so watching the football game was equal parts excitement and abject terror about what is to come from this.”

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