A cheerleading competition expecting 40,000 participants raises concerns about a superspreader event
“This weekend’s event will bring an estimated 40,000 attendees, which will be our largest event held in our building since the start of the pandemic (using March 12, 2020, for reference as the start date),” GWCC manager of marketing and communications Randy Lieberman said in an email.
The GWCC also hosts a center for Covid-19 patients in one of its buildings.
But because it’s an indoor event with tens of thousands of participants, attendees “assume all risks related to exposure to Covid-19” by taking part, Varsity Spirit said in its guidelines for the weekend.
The event has Covid-specific rules in place
Varsity Spirit has put restrictions in place to limit or stop Covid-19 transmission.
The company recommends spectators are capped at two per athlete, but it’s asking spectators to leave the facility once the team they’re supporting has finished performing, according to the company’s Covid-19 guidelines for the event.
The guidelines don’t mention testing or screening attendees, but the company asked anyone with Covid-19 symptoms like a high fever, cough and loss of taste or smell, among others, to stay home.
A spokesperson for Varsity Spirit told CNN that “every event is reviewed independently,” and decisions to hold a live event versus a virtual one depends on guidance from local health authorities and the venue, among other considerations.
By CDC standards, it’s considered a ‘highest-risk’ event
A GWCC spokesperson told CNN that “While we cannot guarantee someone’s safety, we are confident that we are doing all that we can to create a safe environment.”
In a statement, the GWCC said its “first priority is the health and safety of our team members and guests. We are adhering to all recommended CDC guidelines and executive orders as well as implementing a comprehensive mitigation strategy designed to meet the health and safety challenges presented by COVID. We are confident that our efforts, combined with those of our customers, are creating safe environments for events on our campus.”
The CDC warns that the more people someone interacts with at an event and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the risk of getting infected with Covid-19.
That risk is heightened in an area with high levels of community transmission, the CDC said. Fulton County, the part of Atlanta where the cheer event is taking place, has seen a 9.8% Covid-19 positivity rate over the last two weeks, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health’s most recent report.
“The fear is that these people will gather and then take the variant home with them to their communities and plant the seed,” Schmidtke told WXIA.
The findings were based on cases linked to a Florida ice hockey game, where 22 players participated and 13 ended up testing positive for coronavirus. Players breathing heavily and coming within close proximity of each other likely contributed to the wide transmission, the CDC researchers said.
CNN has contacted Fulton County health officials and the Georgia Department of Public Health and is waiting to hear back.