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‘Spread like wildfire’ – Medical experts warn Badger tailgates will lead to COVID-19 surge

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MADISON (WKOW) -- While the news that Badger football is back is exciting to some, it's a big concern among health professionals.

With football games usually attracting thousands of people, many out of state, UW Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jeff Pothof fears large gatherings will only cause COVID-19 cases to get even more out of control.

“COVID-19 is going to spread like wildfire through tailgating parties,” said Pothof.

Instead of packing tailgating lots and watching the game with family and friends, Pothof is advising residents to stay home and to avoid tailgates, along with bars and restaurants.

“For the short term it may seem like a lot of fun, but long term will have severe consequences that we don’t want to endure," he said.

Already the UW-Madison campus and Dane County are dealing with surges in the number of positive coronavirus cases. 

Public Health Madison and Dane County (PHMDC) found more than 2,200 UW-Madison students and employees have tested positive, as of Wednesday. 

PHMDC officials are recommending UW students and residents of Dane County not gather with others to watch Badger football games as they said the decision to play football “now has wide-reaching impacts beyond athlete and student safety and will impact the health and safety of many people in Dane County.”

“The reality is that it’s not possible to have a traditional football season without substantially increasing COVID-19 transmission,” said Janel Heinrich, Director of Public Health Madison & Dane County. “We value people’s health and lives over sports, and we hope that UW does as well.”

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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