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Thousands expected for indoor wrestling tournament in Kansas City amid coronavirus pandemic

Zachary Binney, an epidemiologist at Emory University, said Wednesday on Twitter that one “could hardly design a better super-spreader event” than the wrestling tournament.

In its guidelines on large events amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Kansas City Health Department recommends — but does not seem to require — that attendance at large events be limited to no more than 25 percent of a building’s capacity. The 5,000 people expected for the wrestling tournament would seem to go against that recommendation, even when accounting for capacity on the arena’s lower level. Over two floors, Hy-Vee Arena seats about 8,500 fans.

A spokeswoman for Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas told the Kansas City Star in a statement that “we do not believe this tournament complies with the spirit of Mayor Lucas’s emergency order.” Nevertheless, the city will allow the event to proceed.

“We will be monitoring this event closely,” the mayor’s office said in a statement to KMBC-TV. “Health Department officials will attend the event to ensure all protocols are being closely followed and will not hesitate to issue a closure order if there are any violations of Mayor Lucas’ Emergency Order.”

The Rocky Mountain Nationals website lists a number of safety requirements for the tournament, with face coverings mandated for anyone not wrestling. Everyone who enters the arena will have their temperatures taken, and anyone with a temperature higher than 100 will not be allowed to enter. Tournament organizers recommend that people 60 years or older and people with preexisting conditions or co-morbidities not attend the event.

The state of Missouri lifted all statewide coronavirus restrictions in mid-June, though cities and counties remain free to impose their own restrictions. The number of coronavirus cases in the Kansas City metropolitan area increased sharply after those restrictions were lifted, though they recently have declined some.

Apart from the wrestling tournament, fans will be allowed to attend a number of other sporting events in Kansas City and the states of Missouri and Kansas. The NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs announced Monday that about 16,000 fans will be allowed to attend the team’s Sept. 10 opener against the Houston Texans (Arrowhead Stadium has a capacity of more than 70,000). The University of Missouri and Kansas State University will allow fans at their football games this season, though at reduced capacities. Major League Soccer’s Sporting KC will allow up to 14 percent of its stadium’s capacity for games beginning Aug. 25.

Even though fans will be allowed, Lucas, a vocal Chiefs supporter, said he might not be attending the NFL team’s games this season.

“I understand the risk,” he said, per the Star. “I don’t know if I plan to go to a Chiefs game this year.”

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