Gov. Phil Murphy declined to say definitively whether crowded football stadiums with maskless patrons were safe to attend amid rising COVID-19 cases, but sided with an oft-repeated mantra that outdoor settings are mostly safe for patrons to not be masked.
During his regular COVID-19 press briefing on Sept. 13, Murphy stated that to be in a setting where “you’re sitting next to somebody you never met before,” where “you’re not checking whether he or she is vaccinated,” may not be ideal.
“Thankfully yesterday was a beautiful day and a little bit of a breeze in the air,” the governor added, speaking about a Sept. 12 football game at MetLife Stadium between the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants. He had been asked, in light of the surge in cases amid the delta variant, whether crowded football stadiums were safe with tens of thousands of unmasked patrons—even if they’re outdoors.
Games played at MetLife – be it by the Giants or Jets – do not require a COVID-19 vaccination or recent negative COVID-19 test for attendees.
“I don’t think it’s smart,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the nation’s top infectious disease experts and a face of the government’s COVID-19 response, said when asked during a Sept. 8 CNN interview about crowded, maskless 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.”
Under guidance from the state, and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, face coverings should be worn indoors regardless of vaccination status.
The state’s largest football games are at MetLife Stadium and at SHI Stadium in Piscataway, home of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
Any indoor setting, like where “you are packed in at a bar inside, waiting for your order, I personally think it’s smart – forget MetLife – anywhere like that you have something on,” the governor added.
“We are following state, local and university guidance with respect to capacity limits at our outdoor stadium and with regards to required face coverings in any of the stadium’s indoor spaces,” Rutgers Athletics said in a Sept. 8 statement. “We continue to monitor any changes in guidance and will adjust accordingly.”
Dr. Ed Lifshitz, at a Sept. 1 COVID-19 briefing, warned about “activities which are keeping the virus,” such as unvaccinated patrons still not wearing face coverings, and the lack of 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, the medical director for communicable disease service at the New Jersey Department of Health, 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.s