Why this matters
As the COVID-19 vaccination distribution begins, sports venues play a critical role in public health initiatives.
Throughout the last year, images of empty stadiums and arenas have reminded us of the absence of sport. Now they are playing a key role in achieving public health goals and stopping the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona began operating as a 24/7 COVID-19 vaccination and testing site. According to Dr. Cara Christ, the Arizona Department of Health Services hopes to eventually distribute 6,000 to 12,000 vaccinations per day at the NFL arena.
The state also plans on turning other sports venues into vaccination sites as more doses are secured. This morning, it was announced that the Phoenix Municipal Stadium would also serve as a vaccination site. This initiative is critical as Arizona experiences a devastating surge of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Local hospitals are already overwhelmed with ICU units nearing capacity and an increase in hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
The State Farm Stadium is not an exception. As COVID-19 stays on the rise in the United States, major cities are planning on distributing vaccines in sports stadiums. Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium, New York’s Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, and Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium were recently announced as 24/7 vaccination sites. Throughout the nation, local gyms and community centers are already working as testing centers.
Currently, Israel is leading the world in COVID-19 vaccination rates. It has been using sports venues like the Pais Arena in Jerusalem to roll out the vaccine. In Berlin, health officials established vaccination centers in an ice skating rink and a velodrome . Now in its third lockdown, England has designated the Epsom Downs Racecourse, Ashton Gate stadium, and Etihad Stadium Tennis Centre as vaccination sites.
The utilization of these facilities for public health initiatives demonstrates the need to create sports venues that are accessible and resilient. Unfortunately, there will be more pandemics after COVID-19. Climate related disasters are becoming intensified and more frequent. While there are many preventative measures that need to be taken to address these issues, it is important to consider how spaces dedicated to sport can be adapted to serve a greater purpose. While sport will eventually return and fans will fill the stadiums again, the transformation of these venues into vaccination sites must serve as a precedent for future emergency responses.
For more information on COVID-19 symptoms, prevention, and vaccination, please visit cdc.gov.
COVID-19 is the rival no one in sport could game plan for. As many live events remain at a standstill and the world keeps adapting, how is sport resetting upon its staggered returns?