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Opinion: UCLA must enforce public health safety guidelines at sporting events

Bruins have returned in full force to UCLA athletic events, but fun can’t come at a cost. Attendees must wear masks and abide by local public health guidelines to prevent another surge in COVID-19 cases. (Kanishka Mehra/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Ashley Leung

Oct. 13, 2021 9:39 p.m.

Bruin spirit has returned to UCLA athletic events – and so have the crowds.

This football season, the attendance for UCLA’s recent games at the Rose Bowl was 32,982 for the game against Hawai’i, 68,123 for the LSU game and 50,698 for the Fresno State game.

However, a return to normalcy does not mean letting up on proper COVID-19 safety measures. After all, the pandemic hasn’t ended.

Students attending athletic events should hold themselves and each other accountable for adhering to public health guidelines. And if they can’t be relied on to cooperate with those measures, a higher power should step in: UCLA Athletics.

We must prioritize our community’s safety.

The Rose Bowl is in Pasadena, and the local health order that took effect from Aug. 20 to Oct. 6 required attendees of outdoor mega-events – those with at least 10,000 people – to wear a face mask and operators to designate staff to remind attendees to wear them.

“We will continue to follow all local and state health guidelines,” said UCLA Athletics spokesperson Scott Markley in an emailed statement.

Unfortunately, that commitment has come up short.

“There was a vast majority of people not wearing masks,” said Megan Bruning, a fourth-year civil engineering student who attended the Fresno State game.

Bruning also said she did not see any signs posted at the Rose Bowl about wearing masks.

Photos of the LSU game confirm this: Attendees packed the stadium, but trying to find mask-wearers among the crowd was like playing “Where’s Waldo?”

Pasadena’s new health order effective Oct. 7 requires full vaccination or pre-entry negative COVID-19 test results for all outdoor mega-event attendees, in addition to the mask mandate already in place.

These new guidelines, such as the mask requirement, can’t be allowed to go unenforced. Both UCLA and the Rose Bowl must ensure attendees adhere to these measures during future football games.

In this pandemic, it is clear that when it comes to public health, prevention surpasses reaction.

A study from Columbia University found that if safety measures such as social distancing had been adopted earlier, the United States would’ve avoided 703,975 confirmed cases and 35,927 deaths nationwide as of May 2020.

While that study was nationwide, the same principle should hold true for our university: Being proactive and taking the continuing threat of the COVID-19 virus seriously will prevent future hardship and loss.

The last day a UCLA student or employee reported testing positive for the COVID-19 virus was Tuesday, as of this story’s publication.

The inconvenience of putting on a mask just doesn’t compare to the possible devastating effects of an outbreak.

While increasing vaccination rates and decreasing cases in California kindle hope for a sooner return to normalcy, we must continue to take safety guidelines seriously.

Many in the Bruin community may be vaccinated, but vaccines do not provide full protection against the COVID-19 virus.

Doing what we can to stop the continuing spread of the COVID-19 virus is critical for protecting those who have compromised immune systems, those who are unable to get vaccinated because of medical or accessibility reasons and those who have been vaccinated.

In addition to getting vaccinated and wearing masks, another safety measure everyone, including vaccinated individuals, could take is getting rapid COVID-19 tests, said Christina Ramirez, a biostatistics professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

Knowing who tested positive can help reduce transmission more than just knowing who is vaccinated, Ramirez said.

Regular testing would help prevent vaccinated individuals who are asymptomatic or presymptomatic from unknowingly spreading the virus to others.

None of this is to say that our athletic events haven’t been an integral part of many new and returning Bruins’ experiences these past few weeks.

“It’s just really exciting getting to feel that energy and to just be there watching the game in person,” said Vivian Jade Yee, a fourth-year transfer geography student and UCLA band member. “I’m just really excited to be part of the community here, and hearing the incredible support from fans and everyone has been amazing.”

Having attended the recent games as part of the UCLA band, Yee said everyone in the ensemble has been wearing masks and adhering to safety guidelines.

Hopefully, this will be the case for the crowd at the next athletic event, whether that be football or soccer.

At a time when isolation has become the norm and screen time constitutes much of our waking hours, wandering around the bustling campus, attending an in-person discussion and cheering at a lively sports game can all be sources of comfort.

So let’s wear our masks, and cheer on.

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Ashley Leung
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