The NCAA has safety protocols for teams, including extensive testing, social distancing, and contact tracing before teams arrive and throughout the tournament.
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana is no stranger to big events. The city is good at that.
Since the pandemic, organizers have slowly brought back conventions and youth tournaments, but nothing compared to the scale of March Madness.
Indianapolis also hosts the Big Ten basketball tournament and the Horizon League tournaments for men and women.
That’s 99 games in 29 days.
The NCAA announced that it will allow 25 percent capacity for games during the tournament, drawing thousands of die-hard fans to Hoosier State.
“I’m not going to lie, we have concerns about the risks and safety of both the players and the coaching staff, families and fans,” said Dr. Brian Dixon, Director of Public Health Informatics at the Regenstrief Institute. “We are happy to have the tournament here but we recognize that there is some risk involved. We are therefore concerned that things could get out of hand if not closely managed.”
The NCAA has established safety protocols for teams traveling for the tournament, including extensive testing, social distancing, and contact tracing before the teams arrive and throughout the tournament.
But the fans have somewhat looser restrictions.
“There are fewer pilot controls for the fans, which is why a lot of the concern arises. They come from different places. They don’t get tested as often as the teams and of course they’ll be all over town, ”said Dixon.
The state said it is working on a comprehensive COVID-19 testing and tracking plan for fans and teams coming to Indiana for March Madness. They plan to track all visitors outside of the state who tested positive and conduct thorough contact tracing.
“Our non-government people, these labs, will go to their government dashboards, but we will have insight into people who are being tested. The teams will bill the negative tests and any positive tests very carefully, and those positive tests will be carefully followed up, ”said Dr. Kristina Box, State Health Commissioner.
Shining A Light kicks off at Monument Circle tonight and features Indiana’s new game: a basket, ball and dream presentation that will take place every night after the Signature Salute at 8.45pm, 9.45pm and 10.45pm until April 5th. #BackDowntownIndy https://t.co/56ZINBF4ZY pic.twitter.com/X6pngE4yAj
– Downtown Indy, Inc. (@IndyDT) February 28, 2021
Marion County’s health authorities state that there are more than 200 contact tracers on standby if needed.
On Thursday, the district relaxed the capacity restrictions for restaurants and bars. They also extended the curfew from midnight to 2 a.m.
While the timing is favorable for March Madness, Mayor Joe Hogsett said the tournament wasn’t the reason for the change and that the dates guide the decisions.
“We will remain vigilant with this change and will continue to trust the health department and follow their recommendations on where the data takes us,” said Mayor Hogsett.
The other problem is the transmission of new COVID-19 variants that are known to be more contagious.
There is currently no evidence that the new variants make people sick or kill more people. The current vaccines against the variants are also shown to be somewhat effective.
“We are concerned about these variants because they appear to be more contagious than the ‘normal’ coronavirus strain we looked at last year,” Dixon said. “There are some concerns that these variants could come into the city from outside.” Travelers and fans who come to see the games. “
Dixon said the tournament will behave almost like a natural experiment.
“If this event is successful it gives us a lot of hope that we can have the (Indianapolis) 500, that we can have many other events this summer,” he said. “If we all do our part to take precautionary measures and make this a safe event not only for the players but also for the fans, we will have the opportunity to earn ourselves a reputation as well as future events that are more normal. “
He added that it is important for restaurant and bar owners to take extra security measures to monitor crowds, social distancing and the wearing of masks.
“When people aren’t wearing their masks properly or breaking some of the rules, it’s important to call them up and say, ‘Hey, just a general reminder, we want everyone to be safe so we can all enjoy the games and one Good times can have, ”said Dixon.
Indiana Sports Corp also works closely with the NCAA to ensure everyone’s safety. They recently launched Mask Madness to encourage fans to play it safe during the tournament.