JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On Saturday, all eyes will be on Jacksonville as it hosts the Ultimate Fighting Championship 261, the city’s first live sporting event to a sold-out audience since the pandemic began.
Up to 15,000 fans will gather at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena for the highly anticipated UFC battle card, which will be spearheaded by a match that will see Jorge Masdival battle Kamaru Usman II for the UFC welterweight title.
But even if professional athletes want to get fans back in the stands, public health experts have concerns about making a winning lap before Florida is completely out of the woods.
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“The most important thing as more and more vaccines get into people’s arms is that we can control this virus and get back to some form of normalcy,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the White House chief medical officer, told News4Jax this week. “But declaring victory ahead of time by withdrawing public health measures is, in my opinion, ill-advised.”
According to the organizer’s website, there will be security logs at the UFC event. In addition to signing a waiver, ticket holders must complete a COVID-19 questionnaire prior to the event. This measure is intended to streamline the entry of fans into the arena.
Dr. Fauci warned that reopening the state without precautionary measures would be a “risky endeavor,” especially since Florida ranks third nationwide in total COVID-19 infections. The state also has the most documented cases of the British variant, which is more contagious than other tribes.
According to Fauci, the U.S. as a nation has an average of 60,000 to 70,000 new infections per week, which he described as unacceptable as it puts the country at risk of further spikes in some cases.
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