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Keeping Our Sporting Events Safe During The COVID-19 Pandemic

ByMarc Silberberg

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Select venues in the United States have opened up for live sporting events with limiting seating capacity. However, most municipalities continue to keep their doors closed to the public to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The debate is whether or not people can watch these games safely without infecting one another and can the stadium staff keep surfaces clean to combat the spread of the virus?

Which NFL Teams Are Allowing Fans At Games?

The Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans, Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have all allowed fans at limited seating capacity. The New Orleans Saints are considering moving its games to LSU’s Tiger Stadium which will allow up to 25,000 fans. NFL Teams which have allowed fans at its games have limited seating capacity (mostly under 25%) and all other teams have restricted fans in attendance until further notice. The contrast between those teams which allow and those which don’t is quite clear. Red states that represent Republican majorities will tend to be more lenient while states with Democratic majorities will be closed to the idea of fans in attendance.

Using Disinfecting Drone Technology At Mercedes Benz Stadium

When the Atlanta Falcons played against the Carolina Panthers in week five, there were some fans in attendance to watch the game. It was noticed on live TV when the Panthers kicked a field goal during the first quarter that there were some fans stationed in the seating situated behind the end zone. The reason why fans were allowed to attend the Falcon game this past Sunday was mainly due to the local municipality allowing Mercedes Benz Stadium to open. This was only because the stadium staff was able to implement advanced COVID-19 guidelines that kept all participants safe. What’s unique about Mercedes Benz Stadium is that they were the first host of any NFL team to make use of disinfecting drones to effectively sanitize the seating area. This meant covering more space quicker through the use of drone technology rather than the typical backpack fogger that will go from seat to seat with a mist duster blower. Mercedes Benz Stadium has collaborated with Lucid Drone Technologies located in Charlotte, North Caroline to make this possible. The unmanned drone has the capacity to hold a 2.5 gallon tank of disinfectant mist that will climb high above the stadium seats. With flight height the drones can move quicker and cover more ground that cuts down cleaning time by 95%.

Other protocols have also been implemented at Falcon games such as being mobile ticket only. This makes a smooth touchless entry into the stadium from the gate all the way until your seat. Food can be ordered in advance via a mobile device and picked up when ready, limiting waiting around and being exposed to other fans. It goes without saying that a mask is required at all times other than when eating or drinking by your seat. Stadium seating has been strategically separated to allow significant space between fan participants. Other teams in the NFL are taking notes on venues like the Falcons, and will most likely implement what they are learning next season. Hopefully by that time there will be a vaccine and the risk for coronavirus will be greatly diminished.

Keeping Commercial HVAC Systems In Stadiums Clean

There are other ways to combat COVID-19 at public sporting events like having them outdoors. With limited seating at an outdoor event the chance of the virus spreading goes down. Infected particles in the form of aerosols that get airborne will leave the outdoor facility with limited encounters with fans. But what if your team’s venue is in a warmer climate that is limited to indoor seating only? In an article published in early June by the National Institute of Health, it was originally thought that the summer heat would slow down the spread of coronavirus. However in states like New York and New Jersey the heat had little impact in slowing down the spread.

The National Football League currently has eight teams that either play indoors or play in a stadium with a retractable roof. They are the Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, Detroit Lions, St. Louis Rams, Houston Texans, and Arizona Cardinals. Each of their venues rely on a highly sophisticated heating and cooling system to keep its participants comfortable at the games. Commercial HVAC systems need to be maintained and checked regularly for optimal performance. Stadium maintenance needs to be on top of its game in order for the heating and cooling system to function properly without any unexpected breakdowns.

What Problems Might Commercial HVAC Systems Encounter?

There are the typical mechanical problems which have to do with the multiple condensers and air blowers. These units should be checked regularly to forgo issues that could have been prevented with regular maintenance checks. When caring for a commercial HVAC system the filters should be inspected to make sure that they don’t become dirty and clogged. Not changing the filters often can have a significant impact on the air quality in the conditioned space. In addition, the performance of the system can be negatively affected when air filters are not replaced regularly.

Besides for the filters to be changed or clean, dust, mold, bacteria, and viruses can build up within the air ducts. These unwanted items will remain there for some time or in the worst case scenario get blown back into the conditioned space. The correct procedure would be to have a commercial air duct cleaner come down and take a look at the ducts and vents. They will evaluate the facility to see if the HVAC system will benefit from having the ducts cleaned. The objective is for your commercial heating and cooling system to perform its best and provide clean air to your guests.

Why Are Commercial HVAC Systems So Complex? 

Residential HVAC systems are made to keep the home’s temperature just right. Depending on how hard it has to work to get to that optimal temperature will determine the wear and tear it takes. Commercial HVAC systems need to work really hard to maintain a comfortable temperature with multiple air blowers and condensers. These units are so big that they need to be hauled on tractor trailers. These systems pull and push a high volume of air which takes a toll on the system. This means more dust, mold, bacteria, and viruses like COVID-19 will get pulled into the ventilation system at a greater rate. That’s why it’s vital that each facility maintains and inspects its commercial HVAC system regularly and clean the air ducts when deemed necessary.

Using Ultraviolet Light To Fight COVID-19

Many healthcare facilities around the globe have begun to make use of ultraviolet rays to combat virus spread. This can be done by having a mobile robot scan hallways, patient rooms, and seating areas to zap out viruses from the air. Municipal and commercial facilities have begun to take advantage of this technology and implement it. Bellaire City Library located in Bellaire, Texas is now cleaning library books in a large looking microwave that emits ultraviolet rays. Far UV Technologies, a startup in Kansas City, has just earned itself a nice contract with Boeing to use ultraviolet light to sanitize airplanes. Requests for UV light for HVAC systems have skyrocketed and suppliers are having a hard time keeping up with demand. This method of striking viruses on land and air is trending and the only challenge they face is protecting humans while dispersing the ultraviolet rays. Ultraviolet light is an effective way to combat COVID-19 by breaking up the virus’s molecular bonds that hold together the DNA. Once this is accomplished the risk of infection is greatly reduced if not nil. If scientists can figure out how to safely station ultraviolet technology in a public setting it won’t be long until you come across ultraviolet sanitizing during your next shopping experience.

Final Words

Everyone is eager to get back to some type of normalcy but we need to be aware that the risk of COVID-19 is still prevalent. The question is how to reopen our stadiums and economy safely while protecting those who are at risk. People in life have to choose if the risk is worth it. Take driving a car, there is always the risk of getting into an accident but we do our best to drive safely to get to our destination. Reopening up our economies needs to be viewed in a similar light. We need to move on but we must take safety precautions like social distancing, wearing a mask, and washing our hands. With proper hygiene and keeping those who are at risk safe we will get over this virus. No one knows how long this will be around but if we are able to tackle human to human transmission, we have already won most of the fight. We are all in this together.

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