When a Basketball Game Has an Exciting Finish and the Fans Storm the Court

From a post on politico.com by Tyler Weyant headlined “Hoop Nightmares”:

Maybe it’s a last-second, buzzer-beating shot to secure a great upset (hello, Rutgers-Purdue Thursday evening). Maybe it’s defeating an in-state rival for the first time (we see you, James Madison-Virginia). The emotions take over, the shouting reaches a fever pitch, the clock strikes 0:00. And students stream onto the court.

Court storming in college basketball is nothing new, but it does come with Covid risks far greater than the football fan swarms who prompted preseason hand wringing.

“I think we can use the colloquialism, ‘It’s a whole other ballgame,’” said Christine Petersen, a University of Iowa epidemiologist.

I interviewed Petersen in October during football season, when she told Nightly the outdoor nature of the games alleviated the risk for field-storming fans. For basketball, particularly during the biggest games of the season, the danger is simply greater, she said.

“It’s an inside space, and you have a lot of people in that space. If it’s a sold-out game, and if the game leads to a buzzer beater — a lot of people screaming, jumping up and down and storming the court. That’s a lot of expelled aerosol,” Petersen said.

She compared the risk of a court storming to one of the earlier and most prominent indoor Covid case studies: A March 2020 choir practice in Skagit County, Wash . Time and again, the data has shown that infected people singing or shouting in a closed space can spread infection, a situation found frequently at top-level basketball games.

Nor does the risk end at the final buzzer. “I am worried about what can happen in the arena. I am more worried about what happens after the game is over and they go to the bar,” Petersen said.

Petersen’s advice for college hoops fans: Try going to worse basketball games. Big games with rowdy fans packed in tight quarters increase the risk that much more….

“I’m good with going in general if it’s not wall to wall, but I just am not ready to be shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of screaming people,” Petersen said.

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