The Cincinnati Bengals are setting new fan expectations as the team returns to an expected full season in Paul Brown Stadium. But its COVID-19 safety protocols may look a little different from other teams in the NFL.
The Bengals announced on Aug. 17 that Paul Brown Stadium would be operating at full capacity for the 2021 season. That's a change from the 2020 season, when the team played many of its regular-season games to small or no crowds due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic (pre-season games were canceled). The stadium has a capacity of about 500,000 people.
The Bengals also said stadium operations would be going cashless, starting with the Aug. 29 pre-season game against the Miami Dolphins. Fans will use credit cards, debit cards or mobile payment methods throughout the stadium, including at all concession stands, retail stores and roving vendors.
Tickets also have gone mobile, the Bengals said, with all tickets stored within the Bengals' mobile app.
Despite the rise of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus throughout counties within the Greater Cincinnati region, the Bengals did not share any specific COVID-19 safety protocols, such as masking, physical distancing or vaccination requirements. That's very different from what the Los Angeles Raiders are doing. The Raiders announced Aug. 17 that all fans entering Allegiant Stadium must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Unvaccinated fans can request a vaccine at the stadium and then wear a facial mask to enter.
The Raiders are the first NFL team to enact such measures.
CityBeat has reached out to the Bengals for comment. We will update this story if we hear from representatives.
Large-scale event venues throughout Greater Cincinnati have recently announced vaccination requirements as coronavirus cases spike throughout Ohio and Kentucky. Though primarily used for music, outdoor venues Riverbend Music Center, ICON Festival Stage at Smale Park and PromoWest Pavilion at OVATION are requiring partial or full COVID-19 vaccination for entry.
Public health experts have said that though COVID-19 transmission is less likely outdoors, precautions such as distancing and masking still should be taken in large crowds, particularly in high-transmission regions. According to charts on Aug. 18, the CDC considers each of the counties surrounding Cincinnati — both in Ohio and in Kentucky — to be high risk due to the prevalence of the virus. Nearly all states within the nation also are considered high risk.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a “fully vaccinated” person is one who is two weeks past their second dose of a two-dose vaccine series (Pfizer and Moderna) or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson).
The Delta variant of the coronavirus largely has been responsible for the sharp uptick in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, and scientists warn that this strain is much more dangerous than the original virus. People infected with Delta carry 1,000 times more of the virus, which makes it easier to transmit among others when speaking, singing, sneezing or breathing hard, particularly within indoor areas. Health experts say that Delta is more than twice as easy to spread as the first strain.
Unvaccinated individuals are at the highest risk for severe infection and substantial health issues from coronavirus, experts say, though some vaccinated individuals have also become infected due to Delta's highly contagious nature. Symptoms and rates are less severe in individuals who are fully vaccinated with a Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine, though.
Local and state health officials say that the sharp increase of COVID-19 cases in the region is a major concern. In Kentucky, there were 15,754 new COVID-19 cases reported in the last week, a 60% increase over the previous week. Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner for the Kentucky Department for Public Health, said on Aug. 17 that the state expects to hit its all-time high for ICU admissions this week — a big problem with Kentucky experiencing severe healthcare staff shortages.
Sign up for our weekly newsletters to get the latest on the news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.