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Big events with big crowds are back in Colorado, but the risk of COVID has never gone away


Same story at the Westword Music Showcase last weekend. Airs and drinks were plentiful, social distancing was roughly the distance between two seats.

Fall 2021 is the opposite of a year ago, but it is perhaps the most confusing season yet of the crisis.

Colorado has relatively high vaccination rates, with 58 percent of the state’s population fully vaccinated. But it is not yet a level to bring the virus under control and heads of state are warning of hospitals reaching the capacity of intensive care units. On Monday, a quarter of hospitals said they expected staff shortages next week.

So what’s the best tip if you’re planning on attending a soccer game or a show? Doctors and public health officials insist on the advice that has been true for months now: vaccinated, masked, and on the outside easily beats the alternative.

Hart Van Denburg / CPR News
Fans at the Hippo Campus show at the Westword Music Showcase in the RiNo neighborhood of Denver on Saturday, September 18, 2021.

How safe are outdoor games or concerts?

Rick Kornfeld has had Bronco memberships for decades. He rarely missed an opening game, like this Sunday against the New York Jets. Often he accompanies his 82-year-old mother.

They are both fully vaccinated, but there are no vaccination or mask requirements at Empower Field in Mile High. Unvaccinated fans are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering, according to the stadium’s website.

“Not only will a lot of people not be wearing masks, but there will be a number of people in a stadium of almost 80,000 who will not be vaccinated,” said Kornfeld, who lives in Denver, where nearly 75 % of those over 12 are now fully vaccinated.

He is a lawyer and has a 10 week trial ahead so now is not a good time to get sick. He consulted medical friends and decided to ignore it.

“None of them could say, ‘I think that’s a huge risk’ or anything, but it’s only a risk. And I just decided, I can watch it on TV and not take that risk, ”Kornfeld said.

Courtesy of Rick Kornfeld
Long-time Bronco season ticket holder Rick Kornfeld with his mother Linda and wife Julie. Kornfeld plans to skip Sunday’s home opener and watch the game instead on TV.

Centennial resident Greer Hancock and her husband bought tickets for Dave Matthews at Fiddler’s Green Amphitheater next month. They are fully immunized and have a toddler at home, but she is still worried.

“What is the risk for me? What is the risk for my husband? What is the risk for my child? she asked.

Starting October 1, the site will require vaccination and strongly encourages masks.

“What if we got it, didn’t know it, and unknowingly passed it on somewhere else, because we were at that outdoor event live with so many people?” “

UC Health’s Dr Michelle Barron said affected clients like Hancock should first consider the location and what the vaccination status of those around you might be.

“I think you have to sit down and do the math in your head to find out what’s the implication, A) you have COVID, or B) What’s the real risk?” said Barron.

John Daley / CPR News
Fans at the CU Buffs football game against the University of Minnesota on Saturday, September 18, 2021 /

Not all Colorado residents are concerned about attending events, regardless of their immunization status

Greg Krush, from Hotchkiss on the West Slope, is not vaccinated but does not hesitate to attend events in person either.

“I mean you take a risk, whatever you do, unless you want to live in a bubble,” he said. “A lot of people I know feel the same way. Living your life in fear of something that, you know, we ski, we ride a motorcycle, we go swimming, we get behind the wheel of a car.

There are a lot of people like him in Colorado. Up to two million are unvaccinated and some of them will be at the Broncos game, maybe sitting next to you. Evergreen’s Carrie Whittlesey has two elementary students, so they are not vaccinated. She and her husband are vaccinated and plan to take their kids to a Buffs game soon.

“If we are, let’s say outside of this football game, should we be wearing masks?” Whittlesey asked.

Yes, said Barron, a mask will improve your chances of staying COVID-free.

“If you’re fully vaccinated, you wear a mask, you bring your hand sanitizer, your risk will still be incredibly low. It’s not zero, ”Barron said.

John Daley / CPR News
As part of its COVID-19 protocols, regardless of vaccination status, masks must be worn in any indoor space at Folsom Field on match days. There is no general vaccination requirement for Folsom Field, but CU Boulder strongly encourages people to get vaccinated when they come to campus. Unvaccinated clients are strongly encouraged to wear a mask unless they are actively eating or drinking.

Indoor events are a whole different story

Fans of the Avs and Nuggets will have a whole different safety calculation to consider this winter if full capacity crowds are back.

“Indoors, when you start to get into large groups, I really start to worry about, for example, the airflow,” Barron said. “How far away are you from people and how far are people wearing masks?” “

Infectious Disease Physician Sean O’Leary of Children’s Hospital Colorado agrees that your level of risk depends on the events you wish to attend and your personal circumstances. For children under 12, who cannot yet be vaccinated, their risk of serious illness, hospitalization or death is lower than that of older adults.

“But it’s not zero,” O’Leary said. “It’s something that I think is a very personal decision in terms of ‘are you willing to take that risk? “”

University of Denver aerosol expert Alex Huffman said it’s good to think about how viruses, like COVID-19, are spread.

“You can get infected if you breathe in air that is directly exhaled by someone else,” said Huffman, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry. “Anytime you are close enough to share air with someone, you run the risk of getting infected whether or not you are vaccinated, you can get an infection which can be a breakthrough infection, and you can always pass it on. “

He said that is why the exterior is considerably safer, but not without risk, than the interior, where, like, say, cigarette smoke, “this aerosol still accumulates if the room doesn’t. ‘is not properly ventilated’.

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