Browns Fans Cautioned Alcohol And Large Gatherings Recipe For COVID Spread

The Browns play in Baltimore Sunday, Sept. 13, but during the first home game Sept. 17, they can have up to 6,000 fans in the stadium to minimize spread of the coronavirus. [Eric Glenn / Shutterstock]
The Browns play in Baltimore Sunday, Sept. 13, but during the first home game Sept. 17, they can have up to 6,000 fans in the stadium to minimize spread of the coronavirus. [Eric Glenn / Shutterstock]
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The Cleveland Browns play their first game of the season Sunday. In any other year, that might mean tailgating, crowded bars and restaurants, and large watch parties at homes, even though this is an away game.

But this is 2020, and the Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH) is encouraging football fans to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We just hope that people exercise caution,” said Kevin Brennan, the board of health’s spokesperson. “Even though we’re counting on the bars and restaurants to provide a proper environment for us, it is incumbent upon those patrons to do everything they can to keep themselves and their fellow patrons safe.”

Anywhere that people are gathering heightens the risk of catching COVID, Brennan said, and Northeast Ohio restaurants and bars are familiar with the COVID-19 regulations and educated on the state orders.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is also warning that gathering in restaurants to watch the game or to just have dinner may heighten your risk of catching the coronavirus.  A recent study from the CDC found people who test positive for the coronavirus are twice as likely to have dined out in the 14 days before their positive test. 

The CDC study also found that many food workers said they engaged in risky food preparation practices.

“This is not to say at all that the places where people are going, the establishments, are not doing all they can to minimize risk,” Brennan said. “It’s just a matter of when people get together, and not knowing who’s asymptomatic or who’s symptomatic, that can present a problem.”

When people are eating or drinking, they don’t have masks on, which can increase risk, and drinking alcohol can also have an impact on coronavirus spread, Brennan said.

“As people consume alcohol, they tend to relax a little bit, so that could affect people, possibly with being diligent about their mask-wearing or their social distancing,” Brennan said.

When people see businesses or people not following guidelines, the board of health gets plenty of calls, Brennan said. He expects that if this weekend brings large crowds to sports bars and restaurants, they’ll receive some of those calls, and CCBH will reach out to businesses within their jurisdiction.

Staying at home to watch the Browns game with immediate family members is the best way to minimize COVID-19 risk while still celebrating the start of football season, he said.

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