Spectator-free Olympics raises concern about large unvaccinated crowds in Iowa

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AMES, Iowa — Jack Trice Stadium will be a full house for Iowa State University football games this year, but health leaders hope Cyclones fans have COVID-19 vaccinations along with their tickets.

Story County Board of Health vice-chair Dr. Molly Lee said she is not worried about fully vaccinated people going to games, but that the Olympics’ decision not to have fans in attendance should be a reminder of the risks that exist for unvaccinated people.

“It’s really a privilege to be able to have the opportunity to have our fans return to the stadium, but the Olympics shows that can change in an instant,” Lee said.

Story County’s population is just more than 50 percent fully vaccinated, on par with other central Iowa counties. However, that is still short of the ultimate goal of 70 percent vaccination.

Lee said the Delta variant of COVID-19 is more dangerous than the previous version and is another reason to vaccinate immediately. She said those who had COVID in the past are not immune to the new strain’s effects, and that it is prone to aggressively spread through pockets of unvaccinated people.

Some counties have taken additional steps to incentivize vaccinations. The Polk County Health Department announced Thursday it will give two free Iowa State Fair tickets to newly-vaccinated people.

While Story County does not have any additional vaccination incentives in place, Lee hopes the consequences of COVID-19 are enough to convince the holdouts.

“COVID is very real and very scary and has changed lives irreversibly for people and their loved ones,” Lee said. “I have taken the best step that I know of to stay protected, so I feel comfortable returning to my life.”

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