Here is your Texas Rangers opening day superspreader porn

The Texas Rangers held their home opener yesterday, as promised at full capacity at their new (if you don’t count the games last season with no fans or the NLCS and World Series with some fans) stadium. Did every news outlet on earth give it in-depth coverage, so that readers could google in awe and/or horror at Texans packed cheek to jowl watching sports during a pandemic? With sweet, sweet clicks at stake, what do you think?

Let’s start with the New York Times, which used an Associated Press drone (I think) to capture people waiting to get in to the park in socially distanced lines, sort of:

You can’t tell all that much from that image. For one thing, are those fans wearing masks, as the Rangers and MLB said would be required? Or ignoring the mask requirement, as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott encouraged them to do? Let’s take a closer look inside the stadium:

That’s not a lot of masks! Of course, there is a loophole to the mask requirement at ballgames this year, which is that you can remove them while actively eating and drinking. This photo, though, as should immediately be apparent, was taken during the national anthem, when presumably most people are not eating or drinking. “Sorry, I can’t put my mask on, I’m busy chewing on patriotism!”

Let’s next try the opposite end of the news spectrum from the New York Times, KULR-TV in Billings, Montana, which was likewise all over the story with an item headlined “Maskless fans pack sold out stadium in stunning display,” though it turned out just to link to a CNN video:

That’s epidemiologist Michael Osterholm in the corner, about to say that “already we’re seeing the surge” in places like Michigan and Minnesota despite those states ramping up vaccinations, saying in the next six to ten weeks, we’re going to have more viral spread thanks to reopenings and not yet enough shots to counter it.

Want your packed-stadium photos in pointless-video form? We got that too:

As we’ve discussed here before, pandemics are not clean-cut moral dilemmas, so there’s no sure way of knowing what the result of the Rangers’ experiment with non-distancing will be. The roof was open, so there was tons of air circulation, but also people were right next to each other largely without masks on, which is pretty much the only good way to get infected while outside:

“The risk is lower outdoors, but it’s not zero,” said Shan Soe-Lin, a lecturer at the Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. “And I think the risk is higher if you have two people who are stationary next to each other for a long time, like on a beach blanket, rather than people who are walking and passing each other.”

One recent study found that just talking can launch thousands of droplets that can remain suspended in the air for eight to 14 minutes. But the risk of inhaling those droplets is lower outdoors.

We’ll just have to wait and see what happens over the 4 to 14 days before passing judgment on whether the Rangers owners were unthinkably reckless or acceptably reckless here. And even then, it may come down as much to luck as to good or bad planning, as a handful of people shedding virus in the wrong place can easily make the difference between explosive spread and not much. At least Rangers execs limited full attendance to opening day — they’re switching to distanced seating after yesterday’s game — which should make for an excellent controlled experiment in how much difference distance makes in preventing viral spread at outdoor, unmasked events. Those sports team owners, always thinking about the future journal articles!

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31 comments on “Here is your Texas Rangers opening day superspreader porn

  1. If memory serves, we have exactly one likely case of a true covid superspreader sporting event. I am not aware of any vaxx shortages in North Texas. There are ways to avoid getting covid, even in large crowds.

    What I’m saying is, let’s not dive into hysterics just yet. It’s not like covid is ever fully going away. We’ve got to try full crowds at some point and ultimately this is a virus that mostly spreads due to personal behavior. I think people can learn to keep themselves safe, even in a full stadium.

    1. “There are ways to avoid getting covid, even in large crowds.” Source? (Unless you mean “Wear a mask and don’t shout or sing,” which is decidedly not how the people in that photo are behaving.)

      1. Don’t lick your dirty fingers. Don’t talk directly face to face within ~3 feet.

        The aerosol transmission is not an issue as long as there’s air flow. The lack of air flow is what caused most of these famous outliers like the Church chorus spread in WA.

        1. Aerosol transmission is *less* of an issue where there’s air flow. But if you’re within 3 feet of someone and talking/singing/shouting, which was the case at the Rangers game, that’s a significantly higher risk than if you’re distanced and masked, even outdoors.

          I actually agree with you that any uptick in infections from this is likely not going to be huge. But it’s still far riskier than it would be if they waited a few more weeks until many more people are vaccinated and many fewer people are contagious.

    2. “I think people can learn to keep themselves safe, even in a full stadium.”

      When? When will they learn? Is it after 200,000 people have died? Nope. 400,000? Nope.

      Instead, let’s give full stadiums a try and see what happens.

      Heading toward yet another surge due to highly infectious strains and surpassing 560,000 deaths because people and enabling politicians refuse to learn and bygummet we gotta have baseball!.

      I would like to not dive into hysterics, but those photos clearly demonstrate that people could care less about the safety and well-being of their community.

      1. People often like to use terms such as ‘hysterics’ in an effort to denigrate perfectly rational behaviour. Social distancing, mask wearing and other techniques are perfectly rational in the pandemic in which we are living.

        Most of the people who refer to these things as hysterical overreactions (or the like) are not attending the events in question. Others, like Abbott and many elected officials of both state and federal government, have access to free routine testing and the kind of gold plated healthcare plans 95% of Americans can only dream of.

        1. Agreed. The use of the word ‘hysterics’ by Mr. Miller, above, is in its own right ‘hysterical.’ There is something in between no fans at ballgames and a full stadium with no masking requirement at all. It’s called ‘caution,’ and suggesting caution in the face of a MORE THAN YEAR LONG pandemic (caps to emphasize HYSTERIA) is indeed insulting to Mr. Bladen.

    3. “We’ve got to try full crowds at some point”

      How about waiting more than a week after the start date for all adults in Texas to get their first shot? You can see the finish line, why rush to be reckless?

    4. We didn’t see any notable uptick in cases stemming from the mass protests this past summer. Know why? Because despite there being thousands of people gathered in very close proximity and even engaging in a lot of shouting, almost everyone was masked. Going and sitting in a stationary position tightly packed with thousands of other yelling unmasked people is objectively significantly riskier behavior. Literally all they’d have to do is be consistently masked and there is a high likelihood that everything would be fine. Instead, you’ve got people insisting on being maskless and incoherently screeching about ‘muh freedom’.

  2. I am not clear on how the full (ish) stadium for the home opener and then reduced capacity will make for a controlled experiment in the effectiveness of distancing on virus transmission?

    The Rangers aren’t going to do/pay for any sort of tracing of cases or contacts from among their spectators are they?

    So all the cases in the region (likely including non sporting events as well) will be lumped together over the next 2-4 weeks… and maybe Rangers ownership (and Abbott, of course) can just say “See, we had a huge surge even though the Rangers practiced distancing. It doesn’t make any difference so we are going to go with full capacity all the way from now on”.

    I would wonder what Abbott will say when Texas’ healthcare system loses 30-50% of it’s frontline staff over the next year or two, but he’ll say nothing and take no responsibility for making their working lives a living hell through his own stupidity.

    1. I’m seeing a lot of whining with no thought of solutions.

      And I can’t say that I’ve followed Texas as much as I’ve followed the surging numbers in the lockdown states, but I certainly haven’t seen reports that Texans can’t get shots. I’d be willing to wager that fewer than 1% of the people in the stadium yesterday want to be vaxxed and were unable to get a shot prior to the game.

      Again, avoiding covid is about personal behavior. Masks, social distancing, lockdowns, etc. matter a lot less than personal hygiene.

      1. Lockdowns, limited fan capacities, social distancing, mask use, vaccinations are ALL perfectly rational solutions.

        Have you missed every health official update that’s ever been broadcast on any channel?

        Avoiding covid is clearly not only about personal behaviour. While some people are being reckless and stupid (the images of taxpayer stadium in Arlington above proved plenty of examples of same), others are following rules and limiting or avoiding contact.

        Ask the families of any of the healthcare workers who have died as a result of exposure during their normal work lives whether it was their loved one’s “behaviour” that got them infected.

      2. Okay. I’ve family in Texas. Many relatives. I admit it.

        Immediate family live in a city of 10,000? They, there everyone, knows someone who has had Covid or died from it. Yet they go about their lives normally. As if there is no pandemic. Walmart. Dollar Tree. Target. Gasoline. Bank. Post Office. Baptist Church. They blame the hospital for Covid (it makes us look bad). Their response, “we can’t let this thing stop us from living our lives.”

        I don’t live in Texas (nor will I ever). The difference between the Bay Area-Sacramento and where they live is, what words should I use here, (astounding, disconcerting, flabbergasting, incredible, jarring, jaw-dropping, jolting, shocking, startling, stunning) clearly noticeable.

        I don’t want to generalize that all Texans act or think this way. However, it is clearly the case in their city and the much larger city (not Austin, too liberal!) an hour away.

      3. “Masks, social distancing, lockdowns, etc. matter a lot less than…”

        The only way you can end that sentence is with “…vaccines.” And even then it’s not a valid excuse for not masking and distancing.

      4. This morning, I showered, brushed my teeth and put on deodorant. Built a big beautiful wall around myself against the COVID and am ready to seize the day!

    2. By any measure, Texas has done better and is currently doing better than New York, New Jersey, and Michigan, which continue to insist on mask protocols. Since Texas removed its mask requirements, its COVID case occurrences are down nearly 40%, while the “non-neanderthal” group of states above is up 60%. This game behavior looks shocking after the course of the last year-I’d be uncomfortable with being a part of it myself- but the narrative that Texas is uniquely bad at this isn’t born out by the facts, and the predictions being floated here that these games are going to be superspreader events seems to be dipping perilously close to wishcasting.

      1. Texas has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. That’s a fact. If you’re going to complain about cherry picking facts, don’t turn around and to just that.

    1. and Tex-as!!!

      If it were only the attendees (masked or maskless) who were at risk I would consider it a private matter and decision for each of them. But it’s not, of course.

      Having fans in the stadium means more workers have to be present. Either the fans or workers who contract CV19 might infect many other people before developing symptoms (or might never develop significant symptoms and figure out they have been infected).

      Highly communicable viruses are different from other risks and liabilities in that way. You might get killed by a flying wheel at a NASCAR event you choose to attend. You can be absolutely sure that your 85yr old uncle and aunt who didn’t go to the race won’t also die from that flying wheel.

  3. I remember when this site was about sports subsidies. It was more interesting then. It featured someone who was an expert on the subject of sports subsidies.

    1. Meeting. Rangers Office. March 2, 2021 – 6:00 PM. Rangers owners Ray Davis, Bob Simpson and Team President Neil Leibman.

      Neil: Think the Covid pandemic is over?
      Ray: It is as far as my wallet is concerned.
      Bob: The governor lifted the mask mandate, opened all businesses 100% today, didn’t he?
      Neil: So opening day ….. 100% capacity? At the ballpark, I mean.
      Ray: Yup!
      Bob: Sure thing!
      Ray: Don’t see why not. We’re a business, ain’t we.
      Bob: Yes sire Bob, we are!
      Neil: Are we going to recommend CDC guidelines?
      Ray: Sure, why not? (winks at Bob)
      Bob: (winks back)
      Neil: Charging full price opening day? I mean ….. fans might be reluctant to come out to the ballpark. Maybe a promotion ….. reduced pricing.
      Ray: Hell, no!
      Bob: Absolutely not!
      Neil: What about the publicity? The press. The politicians.
      Ray: Awww hell! Who pays attention to the press anymore.
      Bob: Only politicians I listen to is Abbott and Patrick. (winks at Ray)
      Ray: (winks back) You goin a little squirrelly on us boy?
      Bob: Gettin a little afraid of some damn reporters ….. are ya?
      Neil: No sirs!
      Ray: Good! A little press never hurt no one. Might even be good for us.
      Bob: Sure thing! Abbott and Patrick got our backs (smiles).
      Neil: What if fans get Covid ….. or someone dies from it?
      Ray: Don’t see how that’s our fault, do you?
      Bob: Not like we made em come to the ballgame.
      Ray: How can anyone prove they got Covid at the ballpark?
      Bob: Right-O!
      Ray: And if in someone dies from Covid …..
      Bob: Then they didn’t need any “opening day reduced pricing” did they (smiles again)?
      Ray: Think we’re done here!
      Bob: Neil, send out a press release ….. full capacity, opening day.

      Exactly! I sure liked this site better when Mr. deMause kept strictly to the public financing of stadiums. As opposed to venturing off into (politics) how billionaires make their money (on publicly financed stadiums). There’s a huge difference to billionaires (their wallets) between the two.

      1. I agree that the site owner getting rich off of this discussion doesn’t seem realistic, not when a far more likely reason for the divergence into the politics of mask-wearing is simply that it, like the discussion of billionaires and people not in his political party being bad people, just happens to fit pretty neatly in a package with his other political concerns.

      2. TIm Knox,

        If COVID killed 6-7% of its victims and killed all ages why do I think Gov Gretchen Witmer would be on fox up-selling surgical masks and the ability to obtain them and how we are using the National Guard to distribute food and water. Instead she is on MSNBC with a picture of Dr. Fauci behind talking smack about the other tribe. Heck, she probably got off the phone with the Michigan Republican Head and said “I need a favor so I’ll give you something to fundraise on”. COVID because of its nature is in the Culture Wars.

        I just think public skepticism towards public stadium financing is better served not marrying itself to any tribe. There are progressive and conservative narratives that can be used. I can think of alot of special interest groups that raise tons of money for their tribe but get shafted big time (Private section unions, anyone?). That is the the danger in marrying a tribe.

      3. Covid by its “nature” is a virus spread by respiratory droplets in the air (to a lesser degree on surfaces).

        It does not care about socioeconomic status. It does not care about color, race or national origin. It does not care about age (young or old), gender (male or female or other designation) or religious affliction (or not). It does not care whether healthy or sick. It does not care about political affliction or beliefs. It does not recognize local or national borders. It exists solely to spread from one human being to another. That is its “nature.”

        There are 198 nations on the planet. Of those nations, very few have chosen Covid to be what is not, a “culture war to be waged by two tribes.” This nation is at the head of that list. It’s time for this nation to grow up and stop acting its age. For a nation to act as if Covid is anything other than a national health emergency, placing a monetary value on human life is morally reprehensible.

        We are in agreement. The funding of sports venues with public tax monies should have nothing to do with political affiliation.

        However, Mr. deMause raises a valid point with this article. That point again being, sports “placing a monetary value over human life is morally reprehensible.”

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