“Whether it’s a sporting event, whether it’s a demonstration or any other large public gathering, there’s always somebody there who has Covid,” Taneja said at a briefing last week. “No matter how hard you try, people are people. They’re there to celebrate, they’re there to have a good time. You’re going to have some spread occur.”
Some N.F.L. teams that had opened their gates to fans have reversed course as cases of the virus skyrocket. The Denver Broncos, for instance, got clearance in October from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to have around 5,700 spectators at Mile High Stadium, but the team said last week that rising cases in the area forced them to go back to playing home games without fans. Other teams like the Baltimore Ravens, facing a team-wide outbreak that shut down practices on Monday and Tuesday, stopped admitting fans altogether, at least temporarily.
Fourteen of the N.F.L.’s 32 teams, from the Buffalo Bills to Seattle Seahawks, have not had spectators this year. Another 10 teams have allowed no more than 10,000 fans at a game, and some have welcomed fans for only one or two games. The Houston Texans, who face similar capacity limits as the Cowboys and are subject to the same state orders, have averaged 12,400 fans at their games, half as many as there are at Cowboys games.
To determine whether to permit fans in the stadiums, the N.F.L.’s chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, said the league and its teams, along with local authorities and the league’s infectious disease consultants, review data on positivity rates, the number of people hospitalized with Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and deaths from the virus in the regions where the teams play.
“We do that not just for Dallas,” Sills told reporters last week. “We try to look at the data in each point in time and make what we think is the safest decision. That’s a collaborative decision that’s not made strictly by us in the central New York office.”
But absent any prohibition from a local government, the decision ultimately rests with team owners.