County health department indicates fans could be a go for NCAA tournament

The Marion County Public Health Department is nearing a decision on whether fans will be permitted to attend games during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in Indianapolis next month.

Dr. Virginia Caine, executive director of the health department, said she expects the NCAA to formalize a request regarding fans “within the next one to two weeks,” and she said recent data related to positive tests and hospitalizations is promising.

Caine said any decision on fans for the tournament, which will tip off March 18, will be based on the final pandemic safety plan submitted by the organization.

“We will be able to say once we see that final plan and their request,” she said Thursday afternoon. “If they do want to have spectators, we will be able to help determine what that capacity is related to the numbers, but our numbers are looking very favorable for us to make a decision.”

The NCAA has so far not said whether it expects to have spectators at the tournament, which is being played in its entirety in Indiana. A source has told IBJ that the Indianapolis-based organization is generally considering allowing fans for only the Final Four portion of the tourney, which will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 3 and 5, respectively.

New cases of COVID-19 have been on the decline for the past month in Marion County, with Caine predicting the county could have a seven-day average of fewer than 100 cases per day by the end of February. Also on the decline are the number of hospitalizations, as well as deaths per day.

Marion County reported 198 new cases on Thursday and three new deaths. The seven-day daily moving average of new cases has fallen from 260 to 204 since Feb. 1, while the seven-day daily moving average of new deaths has fallen from 12 to 3 over the past month.

She said the health department will weigh data available at the time a formal request is submitted to determine how many fans may be permitted.

“If they make a request for spectators, they’re looking very good,” she said. “These are always tough decisions … you’re balancing trying to reduce community spread [and] at the same time, you have to look at the economics, making sure that we can keep businesses open.”

Each of the Indianapolis venues being used for the tournament have received approval for limited fans for other events, including Lucas Oil Stadium, which was permitted to have up to 12,500 fans at several late-season Indianapolis Colts games.

The city is continuing to prepare for the tournament in a variety of ways, including beautification efforts throughout downtown and near north-side venues Indiana Farmers Coliseum and Hinkle Fieldhouse. And some hotels are also getting ready for the 68 teams that will participate in the tournament, largely in a controlled environment.

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One thought on “County health department indicates fans could be a go for NCAA tournament

  1. Since the games are still going to go on as planned and spectators may be invited to attend, I have some suggestions for the planners for the NCAA – MARCH MADNESS games. Assuming that there could be a surge of cases (You know, maybe from one of those mutants. It could from one from here. I have heard rumors that there is a mutant which did not come from an animal source but from a plant source. Let us just call it the HOOSIER CORN MUTANT. One of our agriculture universities is secretly trying to study it and develop a vaccine. The rumor has it that the main problem with the new vaccine is that it has been hard to put the liquid vaccine into a vial since the corn cob is getting in the way.)

    So by tip-off time and if the hospitals might get overwhelmed, I have some great ideas to the visitors who come to Indy and catch COVID, but still want to enjoy the game:
    1. Since it will be warmer out by March, and fewer spectators will be allowed to attend, the parking lots of the different venues would be a great place to erect several hundred medical tents or comparable structures to house the COVID patients just like California. There would huge jumbo-trons spaced out so everyone could watch the games even while on a ventilator. Food vendors would circulate so everyone could enjoy the same goodies that they would expect to get at one of these events. However, the food vendors will have signs which warn the COVID patients that they are not responsible for the taste or aromas of the food, since many times the COVID patients lose their sense of taste and smell!!
    2. For COVID patients who insist on being inside and closer to the action, the different venues would set up beds and other equipment near the court so they could get the medical care needed, watch the game, and even have someone bring them their favorite goodies from the concession stands. (Remember the same warning will apply for the taste and aromas of the food.)
    3. The extremely special, elite COVID could reserve a specially outfitted suite for their care. The food and alcohol beverages could be specially prepared and provided while they enjoy their favorite team. Remember the food warnings! For the suites, food blenders are included free of charge.
    4. Souvenir COVID masks, “MARCH MADNESS 2021,” would be included, free of charge, for any COVID patient in any of these special facilities including any family members.
    5. Souvenir personal bubbles will be a hot item with “March Madness – 2021” imprinted on the outside. You know, just like to 2001 movie: BUBBLE BOY ( It can be worn at any of venues. However a disclaimer printed on the bubble will mention that it is not guaranteed to protect you from COVID.
    6. The mantra for March Madness in Indy should be: “YOU MIGHT GET SICK, BUT YOU CAN STILL WATCH THE GAMES.”

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