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UofA weighing options for maskless basketball fans

Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 6:33 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The rules are, when attending a University of Arizona basketball game, fans are required to have a mask to enter McKale Arena and they are required to wear that mask until they leave.

But few fans do.

They wear it inside but in the heat of the game, for a large portion of the 13,000 fans, it’s on their neck or in their pocket.

Dr. Robert Robbins, the UofA President, attends those games and has taken an informal notice of who wears it and who doesn’t.

“I would say, I don’t know, as I scan, it’s about 20% of the people, maybe that’s too high, that keep their face covered the entire time,” he said.

There are exceptions to the mask rule. When a person is seated, they can lose the mask to eat and drink. But then it’s required to go back on.

But it rarely does.

“So the premise is, we strongly encourage and we require you to have a mask coming in and we would like for you to keep your face covered the entire time,” he said.

The university also has other expectations from fans.

“Arizona Athletics expect all those who attend Arizona sporting events to be vaccinated or have tested negative for the COVID virus in the last 72 hours. This expectation is necessary to ensure the safety of all those attending and participating”

So, if fans are not following the rules or expectations, how to insure they do?

That assurance is important because Arizona is in the throes of another wave, or at least one developing.

Arizona has seen a dramatic 40% rise in the number of cases in the past few weeks and its increase is twice the rate of the rest of the country.

That has university officials concerned especially about indoor events which draw large crowds like the basketball games.

Robbins says he’s not as concerned about football games because they’re outside and “not as dangerous.”

So how to get better compliance?

“I don’t foresee we’re going to go row by row, seat by seat like would be on an airliner and tell people if they don’t comply, we’re going to usher them our of the game,” he said. “I don’t think we’re there yet.”

But it doesn’t rule out the possibility it could happen if the number of cases continues to rise as dramatically as they are now.

“When you get into the enforcement of it…it’s going to disrupt things, we know that” he said. “And it’s very difficult for us to enforce on that scale.”

For the time being, the university will leave it at education and voluntary compliance but Dr. Robbins says at some point “were going to have to step it up.”

In a letter to fans, the University says people who are concerned about their health, should not attend the games.

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