This past weekend, thousands of Rutgers football fans and students packed into SHI International Stadium in Piscataway, many maskless though vaccinated. Meanwhile, games played by the National Football League’s New York Giants and New York Jets are not requiring vaccination or a negative test for admission for this upcoming football season.
And that kind of behavior is particularly worrisome, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the nation’s top infectious disease experts.
“I don’t think it’s smart,” Fauci said in a Sept. 8 CNN interview, when asked about college football stadiums. “Outdoors is always better than indoors, but even when you have such a congregate setting of people close together – first, you should be vaccinated. And when you do have congregate settings, particularly indoors, you should be wearing a mask.”
New Jersey’s COVID-19 regulations do not restrict the capacity on how many patrons could pack into a football stadium, be it MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, which holds 82,500 people, or SHI International Stadium, which holds over 52,000 patrons.
Officials for MetLife, which is the home of the Giants and Jets, could not be immediately reached for comment, nor could Rutgers Athletics.
Guests at MetLife Stadium are “strongly recommended” to wear face coverings at indoor settings, its website reads.
At SHI Stadium, masks are not required outdoors, but they still must be worn at any indoor spaces at the stadium. Gov. Phil Murphy’s office did not return requests for comment.
But Dr. Ed Lifshitz, at a regular COVID-19 press briefing on Sept. 1, decried “activities which are keeping the virus,” such as unvaccinated patrons still not wearing face coverings, and the lack of any masks at indoor public settings where not everyone is vaccinated.
“Yes, the vaccines have helped and yes, we are in a better situation and all those things are important, but that doesn’t mean we can go back and forget basic infection control, forgetting basically how the virus works, that the virus has not gone away, and just completely relaxing our standards,” Lifshitz said.
Fauci suggested that vaccine mandates at sports stadiums and concert venues will continue to become more of the norm as the fall progresses and the weather turns chillier.
“The rule is going to be if you want to participate, you get vaccinated. If not, sorry, you are not going to be able to do it,” he told CNN.
Several major New Jersey concert venues are requiring patrons to get the vaccine, such as the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and Live Nation, which owns the massive PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel and the BB&T Pavilion in Camden.