The reduced risk of contracting the coronavirus is related to the space around each person and how often the fresh outside air is cooled in a place.
Allen Hershkowitz will not use the word “safe” because there is no certainty in the life sciences. But the 65-year-old doctor with decades of environmental science experience says he would feel comfortable going to a socially distanced indoor sporting event (in the US) with one of his children.
âConsidering the protocols, I would feel good about it,â he said.
Arena by arena, venue by venue, fans are returning to watch live sports indoors amid encouraging signs during the pandemic. Lots of safety rules are in place for the NCAA tournament which opens in Indiana, USA this week with limited attendance in the stands, just like the NBA and NHL.
Experts say participation is relatively safe due to the way large arenas with high ceilings work to move and mix air – as long as capacity limits allow for physical distancing and masks are always worn correctly.
“If we are talking about reduced capacity, people wearing masks most of the time and using this large volume, I think the risks are probably very low,” said Dr Richard Corsi, dean of the college of engineering and Portland State Computer Science. .
“If you’re sitting with your family and you’re away from other people and people wear masks except when they’re eating a hot dog or whatever, and you’ve got that big volume and you’re using the volume, I guess the risk is pretty low. It doesn’t mean it’s zero.
The reduced risk of contracting the coronavirus has to do with the space around each person when site attendance is limited to 25%, as is the case with the tournament, and how often the fresh outside air is cooled in a venue .
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers sets standards for the number of cubic feet per meter of air space required for everything from homes to restaurants to office buildings. Limiting the capacity gives everyone more air.
âIf you run half-full, everyone gets twice as much ventilation,â said Ed Bosco, managing partner of ME Engineers, who consulted with major sports leagues and helped rate more than 30 arenas during the race. last year.
âIf you run it at 10% capacity, everyone gets 10 times the ventilation air. “
Then there is the frequency with which that tune is changed. While an airplane performs more than 20 air changes per hour due to its confined space and predictable ventilation patterns, a sports arena can perform between five and seven air changes per hour. John Spengler of Harvard recommended school districts four to five per hour for returning students.
âTo have a venue the size of Staples Center or (Madison Square) Garden or Barclays that does five full air exchanges per hour is pretty extraordinary,â said Hershkowitz, co-chair of the International WELL Building Institute. Advisory for Sports and Entertainment Venues, which is also an advisor for the NBA and New York Yankees of Major League Baseball.
Some older buildings have had their systems modernized or repaired to ensure maximum air changes and good “mixing” of that air in the rafters away from people, although most buildings constructed in the past 20 years were already capable of high quality ventilation.
âBack then, these things were not, per se, made for pandemic-based scenarios,â said Ryan Sickman, global sports director at architectural firm Gensler.
âBut they were made for very similar things. It was cleaner, it removed bacteria from the air, it removed particles from the air. It provided a lot of people with clean air, and that’s an important part of the experience. “
Of course, it takes more energy to make these systems work, but it’s worth bringing the fans and their money back. The NHL has 12 pages of arena protocols outlining air change and other requirements; 18 of its 31 teams are allowing fans or planning to do so in the near future. In the NBA, it’s 17 out of 30, although that number can quickly drop to 20.
âSubject to our protocols and what the local government imposes, we believe we can be safe and protective,â said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Coronavirus declining cases and rising vaccination rates have created the conditions for fans to return, said Shandy Dearth, director of undergraduate epidemiology education at the IUPUI School of Public Health in Indianapolis. She said if the United States were booming right now, it would be difficult to mitigate the risk of infection.
And while there has so far been no evidence of the spread of the fan community attending sporting events, which NCAA Chief Medical Officer Dr Brian Hainline pointed out last week. , experts understandably fear that thousands of people will be gathered indoors during a pandemic lasting more than three weeks in Indiana. and Texas, the site of the NCAA women’s tournament.
“I probably worry in arenas or I would worry more about areas in arenas where people congregate, so lobbies and entrances and exits more than the seating area if people are well spaced and well ventilated,” said William Bahnfleth, chair of the ASHRAE Outbreaks Task Force and professor of architectural engineering at Penn State.
Lucas Oil Stadium, which will host the men’s Final Four, is a sprawling 70,000-capacity building that will have 17,500 at most, and the NFL Indianapolis Colts say it has quality air filters hospitable.
âThere’s a lot of air in the area,â said Ana Rule, PhD, assistant professor and director of exposure assessment labs at Johns Hopkins University. âBecause it’s a high volume, you have a greater volume of air in which the potential aerosols emitted by people are diluted, which helps. “
Even 20,000-seat arenas have this volume, and other efforts can further mitigate the risk. Ultraviolet technologies presented as a means of maintaining the coronavirus of replication may soon become the mainstream.
Experts insist that wearing a mask is always essential during indoor sporting events. Corsi said the masks provide a layer of security, along with distance and ventilation to keep fans safe, which will be a constant reminder during the NCAA tournament.
âWe know that using the mask is a critical step in making this event a success,â Dearth said. âWe have a lot of lessons learned from last year, so it’s not an experience. I think we know enough now to know what to do. “