At the University of Alabama men’s basketball game that had occurred on November 19, 2021, officials on the court had not been wearing masks. During the women’s basketball game, that had occurred two days earlier, court officials had been wearing masks. At both games masks had been worn by people seated at the scorer’s table, where the official scorers and official statisticians sat.*
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) had published guidelines for basketball games that recommended that “all individuals, regardless of role or function, always wear a mask/face covering prior to entry and within the competition venue.”
Alabama basketball superfan Luke “Fluffopotamus” Ratliff, who had died due to complications related to Covid-19, had been honored at a game on November 9, 2021. The University of Alabama had on November 5, 2021, decreed that face coverings will no longer be required for fully vaccinated individuals. Most basketball fans had not worn masks at games at the season opening double-header on November 9th and during subsequent games.
Throughout the country, including at the University of Alabama, there had been an epidemic of influenza at college campuses. The University of Michigan (U-M) had joined with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in an attempt to better understand “how this flu season may unfold regionally and nationally in the setting of the COVID-19 pandemic.” The U-M’s Vice President for Communications Dana Elger published a statement that said that “any of the same tools used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 also help prevent the spread of flu. In addition to wearing a mask and getting vaccinated.”
It had long been thought that mask wearing would have likely reduced the transmission of the flu virus. The National Center for Biotechnology Information in 2010 published “The Effect of Mask Use on the Spread of Influenza During a Pandemic.” The CDC had issued guidance on the use of face masks to control seasonal influenza viruses.
CNBC‘s Cory Stieg wrote, “Many people are more lax now about wearing masks and social distancing compared with last year, which could lead to an earlier and more dangerous flu season.”
Had Crimson Tide hoop fans been walking into a petri dish of influenza viruses at Coleman Coliseum? Had this contributed to the campus influenza outbreak or, even worse, to more Covid-19 infections? Would the continuation of the indoor mask wearing policy at the University of Alabama have been particularly helpful in preventing exposure to viruses at basketball games?
U-M’s Elger had written: “The timing of the increase in cases comes as many U-M students prepare to depart from campus to destinations across the country and globe as individuals return to their permanent residences for the Thanksgiving break.”
Would there have been, along with turkey and pumpkin pies, infectious viruses at tables in T-Town and throughout the nation on Thanksgiving 2021?
*Attempts to reach out to representatives of the University of Alabama basketball departments to determine why only some officials had been wearing masks had not been successful.