It’s time to throw on your favorite jersey and get ready for some football! Whether you’re cheering on your kids under the Friday night lights, rooting for your alma mater or hoping your favorite professional team takes the win, doing so in the safest way possible is a touchdown in our book.
While jam-packed stadiums are no longer part of the playbook, there are still plenty of ways you can show your support while reducing your risk of getting or spreading the COVID-19 virus.
It may be tempting to ditch the COVID-19 safety protocols and celebrate like the gamedays of old, but it simply isn’t worth the risk.
In any situation, the safest option is always to stay home. Get creative and focus on ways you can cheer on your team at home, with your own household or virtually with friends and family. Safety always comes first, no exceptions — even when it comes to football in Texas.
Here’s your practical guide to celebrating as safely as possible, with sporting event safety guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Gameday do’s: Lowest risk activities
Like most events and holiday activities this year, there are risks that all individuals should consider before making any gameday plans. We strongly urge everyone to consider participating in gameday at home this season.
With that being said, it is important to ask yourself, “Am I or is anybody in my household at an increased risk for severe illness if exposed to COVID-19?” If the answer is “yes,” it is especially important that you refrain from any high-risk activities or large social gatherings.
In football terms, the real MVP of this season is prioritizing the health of yourself, your loved ones and those around you.
Watch games from the comfort of your couch
It’s not nearly as exciting — but it is a safe and foolproof alternative to attending a game. So, sit back, relax, tune in, whip up your favorite gameday snacks and enjoy.
Recreate the gameday stadium atmosphere
There are plenty of ways to get creative with an at-home watch party! Try these ideas to recreate the energy and excitement of attending a game:
- Decorate your living room in your team’s colors. Think streamers, banners, balloons, whatever you can find. Go wild.
- Have a friendly household cook-off or grill-off. May the best chef win.
- Celebrate the big plays just like you would in the stadium with noisemakers, blowhorns, rally towels, etc.
- Whether it’s hot dogs, wings or nachos, recreate your favorite gameday foods at home.
- Have your team’s fight song queued up to play each time they score.
- Plan pre- and post-game activities. From traditional tailgate games like cornhole and washers, to your own household game of pickup football, to sports-themed trivia, the options are endless.
Host a virtual watch party
Have your friends, family and fellow fans join you virtually so you can cheer on your teams together, and see who can put together the most spirited outfit. It’s time to bring out the jerseys, pom poms and temporary face tattoos. You could even set up your own photobooth to set the scene for the perfect gameday photos.
Gameday don’ts: Higher risk activities
Staying home is the recommended way to catch a game this season, but the CDC has also shared guidelines for those who decide to attend games or gatherings in person. Remember to practice all COVID-19 safety measures if you choose to do so, and keep these below CDC guidelines in mind.
Outdoor games with limited crowds
If your local team is hosting a game at an outdoor stadium or field with enforced social distancing and mandatory masks, be sure you check with the venue beforehand for all updated information. Inquire about COVID-19 mitigation strategies and the steps they have in place to prevent the spread of the virus at the facility. If the venue is not taking precautions such as blocked off seats or rows and floor markings for social distancing, consider watching from home instead.
Okay, you’ve finally made it to the stadium — you can smell fresh air and sweet victory, but what now? Follow CDC recommended steps when attending an outdoor game, including:
- Wear a mask that fully covers your mouth and nose, except when eating and drinking. This is especially important in settings where people might raise their voices, such as shouting, chanting, or singing, as these actions increase the spread respiratory droplets.
- Plan to eat and drink at designated times, so you can wear a mask as much as possible.
- Maintain a distance at all times of at least 6 feet from those who do not live in your household. Be particularly careful in areas where it may be harder to keep this distance, such as entry and exit routes, ticketing, parking lots and restrooms.
- Avoid high-fiving, hand-shaking, yelling, shouting or any close contact which could increase your risk of getting or spreading COVID-19.
- Practice proper hand hygiene and limit contact with high-touch surfaces such as handrails, sinks and concession counters.
- Avoid using restroom facilities or concession areas at high traffic times, such as intermission, halftime or immediately after the event.
Outdoor tailgates, watch parties and BBQs
Who doesn’t love a good gameday grill session? This season, if you choose to host or attend a tailgate or barbeque, it may take a little re-thinking to make sure safety is still the priority. If you decide to host a tailgate or at-home barbeque, keep these things in mind (in addition to all safety protocols listed above). If you’re attending, make sure the host is following these guidelines:
- Hold the event outdoors as much as possible.
- Limit the number of people you invite to keep the gathering small and make it easy to limit contact between attendees.
- Create and maintain plenty of distance — more than 6 feet — between you and others who are in the area. Arrange tables and chairs to allow for social distancing between different households.
- Don’t greet by hugging, shaking hands or any other physical contact. Greet each other verbally and by waving.
- Remind guests to wash their hands before serving or eating food, and use single-use hand towels or paper towels so guests do not share a towel.
- Provide hand sanitizer in addition to clearly marked hand washing areas.
- Avoid buffet-style serving of food and limit the number of people serving. If you are serving food, have one person serve all the food to limit the number of people handling the serving utensils.
- Use touch-free trash cans. Be sure to use gloves when handling and disposing of trash, and wash your hands after removing the gloves.
- Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and any shared items between use.
- Make sure all guests stay home if they feel sick or may have been exposed to the virus. If you feel sick, don’t host or attend any in-person gatherings.
Refer to the CDC’s social activities guidelines for more information on hosting a gathering or cook-out.
Local events in well-ventilated indoor areas
Keep in mind that indoor events carry more risk than outdoor events. If you do plan to attend an indoor event in your community, follow the CDC’s guidance to make the occasion as safe as possible:
- The event should be held in an open, well-ventilated space.
- Attendees should wear masks, especially while yelling, chanting or singing.
- Practice social distancing between different households.
- All attendees should be from the same local community. Avoid gatherings or events where people have traveled from other regions to attend.
- Don’t share food and personal items (for example, noisemakers) with others.
- The sports program or venue should have mitigation strategies and messaging in place to prevent or reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Gameday don’ts: Highest risk activities
As fun as it is to host a watch party, travel to attend a game or meet up with friends at your go-to sports bar, it’s safest to avoid these activities altogether this year.
The CDC strongly urges everyone to avoid attending events that are held in confined, poorly ventilated indoor spaces and where attendees do not wear masks, yell, do not stay at least 6 feet away from others, freely share their food and drinks, and travel from outside their own area to attend the event. Events of this kind are considered the “highest risk” gameday activities.
Since we Texans all know how important football is, let’s make some smart calls this season in our best efforts to stay healthy and support our teams. It may not be easy, but if we each do our part, these small sacrifices can make a big difference in our efforts to stop COVID-19.