Mayors of 11 Big Ten cities have written the conference a letter outlining their concerns about potential coronavirus spikes as the conference begins its football season this weekend.
Big Ten games will not be open to the general public in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the mayors acknowledged in their letter that gatherings and watch parties could increase with football’s return. And, as we all know by now, gatherings of multiple people increase the chances of the spread of coronavirus.
“We know the history of football games within our cities,” the letter said. “They generate a lot of activity, social gatherings and consumption of alcohol. These activities within our communities have also been associated with an increased spread of COVID-19. We, as cities, continue to respond to issues as they arise, respective of the individual rules put in place within our regions. To help us slow the spread and be prepared for increased activity, we humbly request a few practical measures that the Big Ten Conference can take to ensure we have the tools we need to combat the spread of COVID-19.”
The Big Ten said in September that it would hold games and practices as long as positivity rates among players and others involved in football programs had positivity rates below a specific threshold. The mayors say in their letter that they would like the conference to also include the positivity rates for their surrounding cities and communities when making the decisions to hold practices and games.
“Please include the communities where you will be holding games in your conversations and assign a metric to this that is similar to what has already been laid out for your teams. We ask that you work with local and county health officials in these communities to define a population positivity rate, where hosting a football game that would bring increased activity into the community is no longer safe to do. We do not expect this metric to be in line with the current standard for the team; however, similar standards being applied to the communities this will affect is necessary to keep people safe.”
The mayors of Lansing and East Lansing (Michigan State), Madison (Wisconsin), College Park (Maryland), State College (Penn State), Ann Arbor (Michigan), Evanston (Northwestern), East Lafayette (Purdue), Minneapolis (Minnesota), Bloomington (Indiana), Columbus (Ohio State) and Iowa City (Iowa) signed the letter. The mayors of Lincoln (Nebraska), New Brunswick (Rutgers), and Champaign (Illinois) did not sign the letter.
The mayor of Lincoln said in a statement to 1011 Now in the state that she was not involved with the letter because she was unable to participate in a meeting among the mayors of Big Ten cities on Friday.
The Mayor was invited to participate in the meeting on Friday but had a conflict. She only learned about the letter late yesterday. The turn-around time did not allow for the Mayor to discuss the issue with the Health Director and UNL Administration and Athletics, who have had a strong, collaborative working relationship throughout the pandemic. The Mayor appreciates her colleagues’ and the Big 10’s shared commitment to keeping our communities safe.
The Big Ten was the first conference to postpone football this summer. The conference originally said that it wouldn’t be playing football and other fall sports until the spring of 2021 but accelerated those plans in September. Every conference at the top level of college football is playing this fall. The Mountain West begins this weekend too, while the Pac-12 and the Mid-American Conference both will start in November.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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