Badger Fans Warned Not to Gather for Fall Games

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In the wake of the Big Ten’s decision to play football this season, officials in south central Wisconsin are warning Badger fans not to gather in groups to watch the games.

That’s the simple message issued by Dane County health officials just hours after the Big Ten announced that it would reverse course and hold an abbreviated football season that will begin next month.

“We’ve already seen a record number of cases from the UW campus just from students moving in,” Joe Parisi, Dane County executive told the local NBC affiliate. “While we all love our football Saturdays, the festivities that come with them are going to serve as new spreading events within our community.”

Public Health Madison Dane County warned in a statement that group gathering to watch Badger games will likely result in further spread of COVID-19.

“Right now, the increase in COVID-19 cases we are seeing are largely concentrated among UW students,” City of Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said. “But increases in cases due to Badger football tailgating and partying could be more widespread.”

PMHDC conceded that it has no authority to enforce what happens on campus, including at Camp Randall. However, the department has issued an emergency order that limits the size of gatherings outside of the stadium.

In its statement, PMHDC noted that 42 players and staff on the Badger football team have already tested positive for COVID-19. While it acknowledges most athletes do recover, it cites new evidence and research showing long-term health issues can persist. 

“(T)he reality is that it’s not possible to have a traditional football season without substantially increasing COVID-19 transmission,” Public Health Madison & Dane County Director Janel Heinrich said, adding her agency "value(s) people’s health and lives over sports, and we hope that UW does as well.

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