Health officials worry national cheerleading competition could become superspreader

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Health officials are worried the three-day annual Cheersports Nationals cheerleading competition expected to draw 40,000 people could turn into a COVID-19 superspreader event, NBC News reported Feb. 11. 

The competition, being held in Atlanta at the Georgia World Congress Center, kicks off Feb. 12 and will last through the weekend, with nearly 1,500 teams expected to attend, according to NBC News. 

Amber Schmidtke, PhD, a public health microbiologist, said the timing is particularly worrisome as cases of the U.K.'s more transmissible variant, named B.1.1.7, are on the rise in Georgia. As of Feb. 11, CDC data shows 37 cases of the variant in the state. 

"The fear is that these people will gather and then take the variant home with them to their communities and plant the seed," Dr. Schmidtke told local NBC affiliate 11Alive. 

Varsity Spirit, the event's organizer, said masks are required for attendees and participants, except when competing. The event's information document says social distancing and increased sanitation measures will be in place. 

"An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present," the document says. "By attending this event, you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19." 

Dr. Schmidtke added the main concern is activity that may take place outside of the arena. "The worry is all of the ancillary things that go on with a tournament like this. Teams that go out to dinner together and teams that hang out together without masks." 

"We're still in a very red zone, with a lot of community transmission," Carlos del Rio, MD, global health and epidemiology professor at Emory University in Atlanta, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "We're just coming down from peaks. That's my biggest concern."

More articles on public health:
April will be 'open season' for COVID-19 vaccinations in US, Fauci predicts 
Massachusetts allows 'companion' vaccinations, prompts stampede of volunteers
States ranked by percentage of COVID-19 vaccines administered 

 

 

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