AMES, Iowa — Iowa State is going to have sporting events in the fall.
That's the message from Athletic Director Jamie Pollard in a new note to the college community Thursday morning.
Story County has seen a significant increase in the number of coronavirus cases over the last three weeks. Many of the individuals coming down with the virus are young people, between the ages of 18 and 25. Public health officials in the county have been urging Iowa State University, in Ames, to be stricter with students to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. That includes prohibiting fans at sporting events this fall.
On Thursday, Pollard issued a statement that said, in part, "we hope to continue to be a significant economic engine for our community and state. We recognize that our athletics events play a significant role in the economic well-being of many businesses and residents. That is a responsibility we do not take lightly."
Pollard's message comes just hours before the Story County Board of Health is set to meet Thursday evening to finalize its recommendations to residents to help slow the spread of coronavirus. The board directly addresses Iowa State, writing, "We strongly recommend that Iowa State University prohibit spectators at sporting events this fall. Please only broadcast them. We cannot think of any way these events can be made even remotely safe with the masses of people from throughout Iowa, and other states, who routinely attend these events. Please do it for the health of our community."
The above graph shows the rise in COVID-19 cases in Story County since the beginning of the month. Cases continue to climb. In Pollard's release to the ISU community and its sports fans, he mentions the uptick in coronavirus cases in Story County.
"...we are very pleased by the commitment that our student-athletes, coaches and medical staff have made to mitigating COVID-19 infections. We recognize the sacrifices being made by our student-athletes to adhere to mitigation guidelines is probably greater than many other residents in Story County," wrote Pollard. "We continue to stress to our student-athletes and staff the need to wear face coverings when appropriate, commit to washing their hands frequently and adhering to proper social distancing protocol."
New details of ISU's plan to welcome back fans into Jack Trice Stadium for football games in the fall were released by Pollard on Thursday. They include:
- requiring face coverings to enter the stadium
- moving to digital ticketing
- reducing the time for tailgating in parking lots
- limiting seating capacity
- allowing season ticket holders to change their seats
- changing entrance procedures
- installing additional hand sanitization stations
- modifying concession stand operations
A complete list of mitigation strategies for each athletic venue will be made available before the sporting event, according to Pollard. The ISU Athletic Department is also promising to make available an overview seating chart of the stadium.
"The safety of all participants and fans remains the top priority and that is why such thorough and comprehensive mitigation plans are being vetted for all of our venues. As we previously shared, attempts to implement mitigation strategies to a standard of absolute protection is simply not reasonable. It will ultimately be up to each attendee to decide if they are comfortable attending games given the mitigation strategies we implement," said Pollard.
Earlier this month, two football players were among the 10 Iowa State athletes who tested positive for coronavirus. A week and a half earlier, ISU announced that a part-time student worker had tested positive for coronavirus.
WATCH: Complete coronavirus coverage from Local 5 on YouTube