Why social distancing will persist

Some 72% of Americans polled said they would not attend if sporting events resumed without a vaccine for the coronavirus. The poll, which had a fairly small sample size of 762 respondents, was released Thursday by Seton Hall University’s Stillman School of Business.

When polling respondents who identified as sports fans, 61% said they would not go to a game without a vaccine. The margin of error is plus-or-minus 3.6%.

Only 12% of all respondents said they would go to games if social distancing could be maintained, which would likely lead to a highly reduced number of fans, staff and media at games.

I doubt if that poll is extremely scientific, but the key fact here is that people go to NBA games, and most other public entertainments, in groups.  Fast forward a bit and see how the group negotiations will go.  Of a foursome, maybe three people would go to the game and one would not.  That group is likely to end up doing something else altogether different, without 19,000 other cheering fans screaming and breathing into their faces.

If half the people say they will go, that does not mean you get half the people.  It means you hardly get anybody.

By the way, what percentage of the American population will refuse or otherwise evade this vaccine, assuming we come up with one of course?

Here is the ESPN story link.


I'm fairly optimistic about the near future at this point, but I'm not optimistic about returning soon to some of my favorite indoor activities, like going to the movies and to cheap operas.

On the other hand, I don't see why I shouldn't soon be allowed to play golf or go for walks on the beach other than general knuckleheadedness.

The ban on golf seems silly.

On the other hand, the ban on going to the beach is much more pragmatic. I don't think very many municipalities are interested in devoting scarce police resources to beach patrol solely for the purpose of enforcing social distancing. It's much easier to close the beach entirely.

In California, as others have pointed out, when beaches are open in normal times, there are beach patrols to enforce alcohol bans and prevent other antisocial behaviors. Surely they could use the same approach for enforcing social distancing. What appears to me to be happening is authorities are banning things like paddle-boarding and golf only because having non-essential fun is a 'bad look' during serious times such as these. And this goes double if the activities are being engaged in by 'privileged' folks who are at lower risk from the virus (because they are generally well off, because they live in low-density, single-family communities, because they can work from home, etc). There's usually a safety pretext for the bans, of course, but it's transparently unconvincing.

The problem with banning activities for primarily aesthetic reasons is that it means shutting down sectors of the economy that could up and running (providing employment and tax revenues) with minimal risk. And the more unnecessarily strict and miserable governments make the restrictions, the less willing the public is going to be to tolerate extensions to shut-down orders (or accept their re-imposition at later times).

+1. The "bad look," "do our part" arguments are exactly what's in play at my private golf course. I get it in the short term, but long term lack of logic is not sustainable.

Personally, I predict a split between beach towns that rely on visitors for their tax base and places like Malibu.

The Malibu's of the world will seize on Covid to "close" the beach permanently That closure, of course, will mostly focus on the public access points.

Watch the Jersey shore this summer for an idea of where we're heading with all this. A hard-hit state with an actively cautious governor vs an ingrained way of life and economic driver

How many of those polled actually attended any mass sporting event in the last 2 years?


Did they do a poll on people returning to mass transit commuting? Mass transit, obesity NYU study) and high population density are NY's main contributors to horrid COVID 19 numbers.

Again, Japan manages quite satisfactorily even though most of their population is using mass transit. What New York might benefit from is armed guards at all MTA stations enforcing a 'no mask, no gloves, no service rule', with masks, gloves, and sanitizer available on site. That means the supply chain back-ups have to clear.

When I lived in Japan they had white gloved employees cleaning out each individual hole in public phones speaker and receiver.

NYC subway smells like urine.

Shhhh!! Multiple commenters don’t like to think that culture matters. It scares them.

Those who believe that race is definitive factor always hate proof that culture trumps race every single time when it comes to how humans live in societies.

Taipei and Seoul -- both of which are comparable in population density and mass transit usage to New York -- have done amazingly well. After a period of worrying growth, Taiwan (the entire island, not just Taipei) appears to have stopped the virus dead in its tracks and is registering new cases every day in the single digits. Seoul also has been on a linear trend of 5-10 new cases per day for the past month and its total number of cases sits at 610, a small fraction of Korea's cases.

Western public health started out with the flu model for this disease. East Asia started with the SARS model. SARS is a much better assumption. It's taken the west time to get the message.

I wonder if ESPN is going to survive. They are down to broadcasting squirrel wrestling and on-line chess.

I wouldn't worry about ESPN, Clay Travis be damned. It has value as a propaganda tool and money-laundering operation that far exceeds the value of its programming.

Fox Sports and newspapers dependent on events advertising, and resort owners with the name Trump are all hurting.

Do you think Fox Sports (dependent on games and advertising) and Trump resorts
Will be in favor of
Social distancing.

They don't think of themselves,
They selflessly
Think of others.

The leagues may try to resume play at first in empty arenas and stadiums, if the players unions will go along. TV money may be more important than ever.

We need to get more intelligent fast about what's high risk and what's low risk.

For example, I'd like to drive from my home in Los Angeles out to the high desert to see the California poppies in bloom after our surprisingly rainy March and April. But the vast Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is shut.


There are lots of things they could do to thin out crowds, like only letting people whose license plate ends in an odd number visit on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, while evens are only allowed on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

Yes! Washington and Wisconsin have closed most of their public lands. Silly. People need an outlet.

The most widely-used hiking trails in WA were full up with people before they closed them. Not Florida beaches-level full, obviously, but a bunch of people trail running together isn't exactly social distancing.

And of course if you close only the more popular public lands, you are just shifting some significant % of users to the ones still open.

>you are just shifting some significant % of users to the ones still open.

Technically true, but there are an awful lot of generic 'trails in the woods,' once you get beyond a few specific, high-value sites. It would be like pissing in the ocean.

A man after my heart. Anza Borrego too.

In addition to being an economic catastrophe (re 50% unemployment in the private sector by July, sez St Loo Fed), the lockdowns have taken the joy out of life.

How about some economic models that take into account lost consumer surplus?

Instead of lost surplus consumers?

The closing of parks and beaches is ridiculous. I sent this to my local newspaper the day before yesterday in response to an article about the ongoing closure of Oregon's *360 miles* of normally publicly accessible coastline, as well as state parks. It's so far unpublished and unlikely to be so. (The tone is admittedly a bit over-cranky).
Perhaps families should be forbidden from having more than two people in the same room of their house. Perhaps grocery store buildings should be closed, with each person delivered a preset allotment of staple rations. After all, breathing in enclosed spaces is a great way to spread Covid-19. We don't do these things, thankfully, yet we forbid access to state parks and the hundreds of miles of Oregon's public coast, places that are not only invaluable to our well being and mental health, but places whose risk of virus transmission is close to zero. Yes, it is unfortunately true that some popular spots were overwhelmed with visitors. The solution to that is to limit attendance, perhaps pre-registering to make trips, not to completely close a vast amount of natural space that Oregonians have at their disposal. A beach at which you can be 100 yards from your neighbor is not a health risk, to visitors or to locals. The overreaction among public officials regarding outdoor spaces smacks of hysteria, not health. Liquor stores are open but parks are closed? We can go to the hardware store and buy a lawnmower but not walk on a trail? It boggles the mind.

Public choice suggest bureaucrats do what is easy for them, not sensible or logical. Plus they like to be seen "doing something". In addition, you don't get to be a senior bureaucrat by having a risk loving personality.

I think its a CYA deal. The government doesn't want to be seen as irresponsible by not sending anybody out if there was trouble on public land. So they close it off instead.

There's no cost to their behavior and a downside for not closing the parks.

Actually, what they are concerned about is public toilets.
You should still be able to access the parks.

So, I went to REI online and ordered,
For some summer car trips,
Portable toilet.

Seems like everyone has the same idea.
On backorder.

The parks being closed - state, national, and even for this past Easter weekend, local (which may have been a soft way to announce their permanent closure) - is one of the tells that all this should be viewed with extreme suspicion.

There are people in my neighborhood walking their dogs, wearing masks!

It's like they think a restaurant = a nursing home = a municipal park = Big Bend = the atmosphere.

And that Florida mayor, with his "Get off the f***ing beach!" - maybe the beaches should be closed forever! - because I distinctly remember as a tweenager, my chums discussing the burning question, could you get pregnant merely by swimming in the ocean?

The only people I see out in my (dense, urban) neighborhood are runners and people walking their dogs. All the dog people have masks, the runners have none. This is in (and around the periphery of) a small, one city block square, park.

I would imagine running with a mask on would be deeply unpleasant, if not impossible.

There are masks designed for biking and running, meant for pollution and allergen filtering. They are, of course, largely sold out at the moment.

Oddly enough, even though the state is being draconian in other ways, the beaches and parks are not closed here in Michigan. Even the national parks (Sleeping Bear Dunes, Pictured Rocks) are open for hiking -- only the facilities and campgrounds are shuttered. The same is true of national forest recreation areas. You aren't supposed to travel 'too far' to go to the parks, but they're all open.

You can always bank on the short term memories of most Americans. A poll taken during the height of the shutdown is more a fear snapshot than any long term trend. Even in China people are out and about.

Bingo, this poll is all virtue signalling hence why the police are out arresting and ticketing people and governments are issuing stay home mandates.

Ah yes, the virtue of anonymous signaling to some random b-school grad student.

...I don't think the word means what you think it means.

I don't think you know what it is either.

Never mind 2020 March cruise travel. This article refers to a UBS report that seems to say that 2021 March cruise bookings are 9% higher than 2019 March bookings.


If one had a cruise booked for 2020 and want to cancel, some of the cruise lines gave you a credit for the cancellation fee that can be applied to a 2021 cruise.

Actually, you might want to look at how a summer and fall hiatus from colliseum sports affects subsequent demand.

Let's say they open sports up by having them played to an empty stadium, and you usually attended, and now watch it on TV.

Will you go back when they open the stadium? Will you be bored with the TV sports game, and become disinterested in the sport?

This will be interesting to watch. Some people get interest in the game, not so much for the game, but that which is around it, and may lose interest in the game, or find substitutes, they stick with later.

Solo bowling, each person 6 feet apart.

Bocce ball.

Horse shoes.

Speaking of sports, Wimbledon now looks both very smart and very dumb for buying pandemic insurance. Smart for having the foresight to do such a thing but dumb because had they more greedy intentions could have paid out all those years of premium in executive bonuses because taxpayers will bail you out. Incentives matter.


Fantastic! Won't have to talk to anybody, ever again. :-)

This is now. That will be then. When football season rolls around this fall, it will depend on whether we have had a second or third surge. If not, fans will be ready for some football. College students, assuming that they will be back on campus, will head to the stadiums on Saturdays. After all, they headed to Spring Break this time around.

On the other hand, a second surge around June or July will delay NFL training camps and possibly cancel the college season. :(

Interesting question how universities will respond if a surge hits around August. Start the semester online and bring students on campus in Oct or Nov or just make the whole semester online?

Variolation of students using the dorms as makeshift hospitals? Doubtful. But, one can see how just issuing stay-at-home orders for two out of every three months indefinitely becomes untenable.

At the state flagship where I work the admin are predicting a 25% decline in enrollment, and the consensus guess among faculty is we will be going online-only in the fall (I, having little faith in the admin, expect we will start and have to go online-only after the first confirmed case among the undergrad population).

How do you plan to run your undergraduate laboratories? Or will you just stop teaching science and engineering?

"Of a foursome, maybe three people would go to the game and one would not. That group is likely to end up doing something else altogether different"

If the foursome is two couples, then that's probably right. The husband will not be able to go, if the wife doesn't want to. Then, the wife of the other couple may not want to go either. If it's four guys, however, the three will go to the game and leave the fourth behind. I am curious as to how four women would handle the situation?

Regarding the 2 couples, I think the medium term outcome is getting new friends.

"I am curious as to how four women would handle the situation?"

The whole book club just shifts to Zoom.

Hard to share wine over zoom.

Well that's of course the whole point. Not sharing drinks during a pandemic.

A bottle of chardonnay each is fine since none of the Karens are driving afterwards.

It’s difficult to remove all restrictions and not create an infection rebound.
This rebound has a time lag and may not be noticed in time to be damped down.
It makes sense to remove the restrictions in a controlled manner. Enforce masks and temperature checks everywhere (temperature checks might just dissuade sick people from being out and about). Keep park and beaches open with distancing guidelines, so people can have an outlet.

If you are a Liverpool fan or Leeds fan here in the UK I bet you'd be at the game...once in a lifetime events versus smallish chance of death....


South Korean officials had reported on Friday that 91 patients cleared of the new coronavirus had tested positive again. Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a briefing that the virus may have been “reactivated” rather than the patients being re-infected.

They do not have the data one way or the other, yet. If you had the virus and recovered then you produce antibdies sooner upon re-exposure. We want re-infected. which begs the question: How many of these reactivated showed only mild symptoms to begin with? Then second, do any of the reactivated show mild symptoms? Have any shown worse?

IOW, the tests aren't completely accurate.

The interesting thing about this poll is that it is abstract, and saying that you won't go to a future game doesn't cost you anything now.

Whereas in the future moment, when your friends are calling you and ready to go, it is a completely different kettle of fish.

It strikes me that this is a little like a poll in December, when everyone says they're going to join a gym and eat better in the coming year.

(My gut says that most people will bounce back to previous life patterns pretty fast.)

Yep. Sports in general and game attendance in particular is social in nature. The margin that will determine how many people attend is based largely on the signaling aspects in respect to the individuals peer group.

Either that, or games are fun.

Younger people are not taking on much personal risk by going to sporting events. Maybe the virus will have the salubrious effect of deterring 50+ luxury box types from going to sporting events and opening up seats to younger and more enthusiastic fans. One can anticipate that using sporting events as a venue to wine and dine corporate clients will probably decline precipitously, but will still be an acceptable excuse for 20 somethings to get drunk.

Correct that many Americans will refuse or evade the vaccine, and correct that many groups of friends will no longer go out because some of the group are nervous about it. Coronavirus fearers will also judge negatively those who attend events in public, and the desire to avoid negative judgment will further suppress attendance among the brave. A new type of polarization may result. Secret meetings surge in popularity (they already have!).

Without any scientific basis, I think the negative response is framed by our current situation and will change when social distancing is no longer required. Um, except if it somehow reflects a declining "secular" interest in attending sports events.

98.5% of polls show 99% of people don't know what they're talking about, 100% of the time and tend to change their opinions often. Why formulate a theory on the backs of vacillating imbeciles? You have a model showing the accuracy of people's predictions about their future behavior, in stressful and highly unusual circumstances? Then you're wasting your time.

Do aisle and window seats become more valuable on a plane as no one is on one side?

What happens to sports if teams are hit with Covid-19 infections at different times. What happens to the games if the team has to self quarentine for 14 days.

Will coaches risk public sanctions to have their teams practice while many of them are infect? What happens when the first player dies? What happens if a large number of people are infected at a single events and some of them die? Will a professional sports team or an university really want to deal with the legal problems?

Very true. The real contagion issue with most team sports is not the fans but the players. Lots of close contact during the games, crowded locker rooms and benches, and groupies and posses after hours. Random unscheduled 14-day disruptions would play havoc with league schedules. Playing "behind closed doors" with empty stands doesn't solve that.

Also, for pro athletes, the death rate alone isn't the issue. The virus causes lung damage and heart damage.

For most people, a tiny loss of stamina doesn't matter. For a pro, losing a step is the difference between making the team and getting cut.

What about attending a sporting event viewing at a bar?

If immunity to Coronavirus (acquired either by infection or by a vaccine) makes you more employable, or is required for some gatherings, fewer people will seek to avoid a vaccine.

It seems any poll designed to enforce compliance with the Orwellian power grab that is #SaferAtHome suffers from the same problem as those intended to convince the public that Trump is not viable as a candidate (even as the supposedly-improbable incumbent): it's pretty easy to tell the guy on the phone what he wants to hear so he'll stop interrupting your dinner.

(After all, we're busy people, and we only have a few hours each night to enjoy at home with our families... never mind.)

It's true that the comfort level between watching the game in your living room versus in a stadium or arena has never been higher; however, most people have been stuck in their living rooms sufficiently long now that they'll likely embrace the opportunity to spend time outdoors in a social setting even if they take on the monumental risk of catching a virus with a fatality rate well below the advertised 2% from the 0.2% of people in the country that have it.

On the other hand, pro sports especially are a conduit for the virtue-signaling top-down hivemindedness that have people happily Tweeting along now with the government leaders, corporate enforcers, and ¡SCIENTIFIC EXPERTS! quarantining them right out of their livelihoods, so it's possible they give up the holiest of American traditions as well, assuming they are in a position to afford it in the first place.

Fortunately, we'll all have Impeachment II: Wuhan Flu Edition to entertain us (alternatively titled "The Empire Strikes Back" although that implies a discrete offensive action instead of a four-year-running one) but, having listened to approximately seven seconds of the last one (conveniently timed to distract us from the setup for the sequel) on NPR, I think I'd rather watch soccer.

a lot of these conversations will be easier when/if we have a better understanding of how it spreads, and about the rates of infection etc. currently official knowledge and recommended practices is still all over the place and changing rapidly.

so in that environment many people and officials will default to the more restrictive choice. and people in low risk tolerance will avoid voluntary crowds.

the question i am curious about is whether home games will be blacked out on tv.

and fwiw i live in a place with trails. and they are hotspots of noncompliance. and they are not magically sterile just because they are outdoors. the actual crowds and press coverage and howls from rule followers eventually lead overwhelmed public officials to say the hell with this, shut it down

Stadiums should adopt a sparse seating plan. One fan every five or six seats in a row, and one empty row for every two. Conessions would only be served in the stands, and this arrangement makes it easy to deliver food to the seat without passing. This way, the games have a few fans in the stands cheering, and over time the distance can be lessened.

Empty rows and one fan every six seats? Fits the Pirates 2020 roster to a T

It should surprise no one that Tyler Cowen has never been to a sporting event.

>19,000 other cheering fans screaming and breathing into their faces.

Tyler, at a sporting event, you don't have 19,000 people breathing into your face. The arena is a large building and everyone is provided their own seat. It's actually not like a phone booth in which everyone has to pair off for a short time together, so that everyone gets to shout in everyone else's face. If you look closely, you can see the seating arrangement on television.

>If half the people say they will go, that does not mean you get half the people. It means you hardly get anybody.

I thought that maybe economic incentives would be closer to your comfort zone, but you got this one wrong too. When demand for an item drops -- in this case, tickets to a sporting event -- the seller will lower the price, creating additional demand. Assuming that the event in question is popular at all, the exact same number of people will attend the game as before. Sure, one group of four may decide to stay home, but another (different) group of four will take its place. You are also mostly wrong about people attending sporting events in big groups of individual decision-makers; it's usually couples or families, or a couple of friends. But that's really not important and I understand why you don't know this. Just try to learn from the other two points above.

It seems impossible that TC would not consider the price effect. So my question is why did he feel the point he does make point is so strong that he need not even mention price?

Tyler may not have been to a sporting event but I also doubt that he knows anyone under the age of 40. Right now, sporting event prices are so high that they are Baby Boomer events (at least NFL and NBA). As noted above, the prices will go down and, for a brief and glorious while, sporting events will be populated by the under 40 crowd, which wisely perceives that it has very little to fear from coronavirus and would prefer the risk to extended isolation. You may actually be able to afford to take your family to an NFL game.

At professional sporting events, a significant portion of the tickets are purchase by business/professionals as an entertainment expense. Given how businesses responded to Covid-19 much faster than the federal and local governments, does anyone really believe that corporations will spend money to put their highest level execs into such crowded conditions where the likelihood of the spread of infection is high?

As with many things involving Covid-19, the adults in the room will have the final say and right now, those adults probably will not tolerate any sporting event being irresponsible. Just look at how Disney had to control the planned stupidity of UFC.

In church choirs, no one is singing and breathing in your face but it's a dangerous situation. 19,000 people in a basketball arena seems somewhat similar.

A soccer match in Italy has already been shown to have helped accelerate the pandemic.


Exactly. Projecting your voice seems to project virus particles. See https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-03-29/coronavirus-choir-outbreak. There was a similar covid cluster from a choir practice in Germany. So "19,000 other cheering fans screaming and breathing into their faces" is only a little hyperbolic.

Plus I'm not going anywhere where getting in or out is likely to cram me among a lot of other people. I doubt you can fill or empty an arena with six foot distancing. I can barely manage it in a building supplies store.

"If half the people say they will go, that does not mean you get half the people. It means you hardly get anybody."

It's the rule of parties and/or get together's. If I get 80% commitments, I get 50% attendance. I just cancel if I only get 50% commitment.

A "reset" of the sports industry - greatly diminished - now that's a silver lining I can definitely get behind. Thanks, coronavirus!

Even as a fan of hockey, baseball, college football and of course horse racing, I think people are going to have to make much more of their own fun rather than just being fans. This is one reason why the government punishment will have to stop and outdoor recreation -- parks, beaches, golf etc. -- will have to be reopened.

> without 19,000 other cheering fans screaming and breathing into their faces.

Relatedly, I wonder how many refuse to fly? Being trapped in a narrow aluminum tube full of recycled air seems much more dangerous than a well-ventilated stadium.

I had already begun wearing a mask on long flights because there's no better way to be in contact with a whole bunch of people than an international flight with a change of planes.

Anyway, I've cancelled two international trips and all domestic flights for the remainder of 2020, and unless there's an emergency I'm unlikely to fly before I acquire immunity through vaccination or surviving the thing.

Restaurants, concerts ... probably not for the time being. These are discretionary luxuries. Apart from whatever the risk actually is, being anxious about exposure would drain the fun.

While sometimes we pick the group and then the activity (a bunch of out-of-towners reuniting for a long weekend), much more commonly the activity is picked and then the group is formed.

"Hey, do you want to play in our Friday night poker game?" is a much more common question that "Should we do Vegas or wine country for the college reunion?" I think the attendance of sporting events falls is the first category more often than the second. And this is to say nothing of the accuracy of the survey, which even if they represent current opinion as of now, could change rapidly (in either direction) once the first sporting events are held and the results are seen (or not).

Social distancing will persist,
Particularly in the
Elderly community
Where you will see
Surge in

Zoom Bingo

Which will last
Only 40 minutes.

States will have to modify their gambling laws which permit bingo but not online gambling.

Permit Zoom Bingo

Do it for grandpa and grandma.

One thing teams could do at the arena gate is hand out bandanna-like face coverings with the team colors and logo. Group psychology kicks in and everyone puts theirs on. I haven't worn a mask out yet but I'd wear a team bandanna at the game. At playoff games everyone already gets a t-shirt or towel, so this might work..

I would go watch an NBA game aboard the infected Diamond Princess before watching another minute of their remote H.O.R.S.E. games. (While a joke, this is not without precedent. I believe the Globetrotters appeared on The Love Boat and the NCAA has played aboard an aircraft carrier.)

Can you really have have of the 19,000 fans constantly misting alcohol to sanitize surfaces and such in a stadium or arena?

"How many will refuse or evade the vaccine?" This question is only relevant for the 50+ crowd.

Not at all.
Or only if those people are locked away forever from anyone else.
Otherwise, an 18-year old who isn't vaccinated can carry the virus home to grandma.

Honestly, I don't care when "the economy" will be "reopened".
As long as there is no vaccine or cure against a highly contagious and lethal virus, I ain't gonna go out there and risk my ass for things like work, money or profits.
Maybe I will risk it for love, for adventure, or to save a cat from a tree, but not for the Dow Jones index.

What matters a lot more for attendance are groups that are smaller subsets than self-described sports fans.

It's people who are season ticket holders, or people who attended a total of 10+ sporting events last year, or similar descriptions that capture people who actually were driving game attendance and ticket revenue.

It's uncertain how the response would look from that group. Due to ticket prices, there are a fair number of people in that group who are relatively older and therefore at higher-risk from this illness. A lot of people in that group are rabid fans, though.

And some of it may be a revenue problem for leagues more than strictly an attendance problem. Discount the typically expensive seats by some amount - lower-level basketball seating, baseball seats on the lower level between 1st and 3rd base, etc. - and I'm convinced that lots of people in their 20's would snap these tickets up as a rare opportunity to see games from seats that they couldn't normally afford.

> By the way, what percentage of the American population will refuse or otherwise evade this vaccine, assuming we come up with one of course?

If the vaccine is rushed to market, might young people be justified to say "Well the risk to me isn't high, I'll pass for now, thanks"? (Doubly true if they realize they can be a free rider on herd immunity?)

Can adults be compelled to get vaccinated?

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