Health department unsure of restaurant restrictions for NCAA tournament

Local health officials said Thursday they are open to modifying restaurant capacity restrictions ahead of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament—but cautioned the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t bode well for changes.

Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department, said restaurant restrictions are evaluated “on a weekly basis.” But because of the continued prevalence of the pandemic—including a sustained positivity rate in the mid-teens—she isn’t certain if rollbacks would occur before the tournament, scheduled for the last two weeks of March and the first weekend of April.

“I can just say right now, at this current point, we’re not able to increase our restaurant capacity, but that’s something that we definitely want to look at very carefully,” she said. “But that is something that we are monitoring very very closely and hope we can have some good news on that [for the] tournament.”

Restaurants are currently restricted to no more than 50% of capacity for indoor dining, but they are permitted to be at 100% for outdoor seating. No more than six people may be seated at a table.

While fans have not yet been approved for tournament games, each team will be permitted by the health department to have up to 420 family members in their contingent—six per participant.

She said the decision on further opening restaurants will be dictated by positivity rates, vaccine distribution and case counts much closer to the tournament.

The city also has started conversations with businesses that participated in the Dine Out program—which incentivized and encouraged outdoor dining—to begin ramping up for the tournament.

Deputy Mayor Taylor Schaffer, said the city is “thinking about how we can deploy some of those same tools to be able to utilize additional space for those restaurants and venues during the NCAA Tournament.”

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2 thoughts on “Health department unsure of restaurant restrictions for NCAA tournament

  1. Wow!!! I am really, really excited. Since Indiana is totally unable to control the pandemic now, it will definitely be unable to deal with it by the time the tournament begins. If we start now, it will give the City enough time to build a bunch of new portable hospitals just like the Chinese did. We need the construction jobs, you know. Sports, are one of the more important economic drivers for our State. Oh and by the time of the first tip off, we will still not have enough of our local citizens vaccinated, so we can be the ultimate Midwest epicenter for the pandemic by early May. New York had first honors, and now California is taking center stage. The Midwest should not be forgotten. Indiana will lead the way, but we have a lot of work to do. Everyone, who comes in from out of state for the tournament, will provide the additional cases of COVID if native Hoosiers do not have enough COVID to keep our streak going. If necessary, we could import the UK strain or the one from South Africa. City planners may need to consider this as a serious Plan B. However, I think that Hoosiers coming back from their recent holiday trips, will be able to bring back enough cases of COVID and not need any outside help. Souvenir masks, with “MARCH MADNESS 2021” on the front, may provide an eerie and ominous reminder when the final games are over, the outsiders have left town, and our local healthcare systems have become overwhelmed.

  2. However, if the games are still going to go on as planned, I have some suggestions for the planners for the NCAA – MARCH MADNESS games. Assuming the Indiana will continue to falter to control the pandemic by March and since the hospitals will be 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 jumbotrons 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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