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(Pexels)

Fall football for the Texas Longhorns is unlikely, Austin's health authority said Tuesday, despite an announcement last week that DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium would operate at limited capacity.


"I think college football in the fall is going to be a stretch," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott told county commissioners on Tuesday.

University of Texas Athletic Director Chris Del Conte's announcement about the stadium came as a surprise to local health officials, who have been in discussions with UT about plans for the fall athletic season.

"We were caught a little off guard ... that they intended to open the stadium with 50% capacity, which is in the neighborhood of 50,000 people in one place," Dr. Escott said. "I'll say again what I said a month or two ago, and that is that large gatherings were the first thing to close down and should be the last thing to open up again."

Even with more stringent limitations, a fall football season poses risks.

"Quite frankly, I think it's going to be a struggle for us to even allow teams to play on the field without a crowd," Dr. Escott said. "I think it's not really living in the realm of reality for what we're likely to experience this fall."

He cited concerns about the risk to athletes, many of whom are people of color, and their families, who may be at higher risk of hospitalization and death because of health inequities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think we've seen in professional baseball, which is naturally social distanced, that disease spread is happening," Dr. Escott said.

ESPN reported yesterday that 11 players and two coaches for the Miami Marlins tested positive for the coronavirus. Others, including the Nationals' Juan Soto, were diagnosed last week, leading to cancelled games.

If UT continues with its plans for a fall football season, similar cancellations and other disruptions are likely as players, trainers and coaches are exposed to the virus, Dr. Escott said.

Commissioner Brigid Shea said she hopes UT is taking his advice—"or at least listening to you," she said.

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