Effects of Large Gatherings on the COVID-19 Epidemic: Evidence From Professional and College Sports
48 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2020 Last revised: 8 Jan 2021
Date Written: July 21, 2020
Countries around the world have adopted social distancing as a strategy for reducing the transmission of SARS-COV-2 and containing the COVID-19 epidemic. However, the causal effects of social distancing on infections and mortality are not well understood. A key problem is a kind of simultaneity: social interaction may reduce case rates and mortality, but high case rates and mortality are the main reason that people have reduced their social interaction. It is also likely that some types of events create more effective transmission opportunities than others. One concern is that large social gatherings, like professional or college sports events, may carry greater risk of a large outbreak than multiple smaller events.
We compare COVID-19 case loads and mortality across geographic areas that hosted more vs fewer NHL hockey games, NBA basketball games, and NCAA basketball games during the early months of 2020, before any large outbreaks. We find that hosting one additional NHL/NBA game leads to an additional 783 COVID-19 cases during March-mid May and an additional 52 deaths. Similarly, we find that hosting an additional NCAA Division 1 men's basketball games results in an additional 31 cases and an additional 2.4 deaths. Back of the envelope calculations suggest that the per-game fatality costs exceed consumption benefits by a wide margin.
Note: Funding: None to declare
Declaration of Interest: None to declare
JEL Classification: I10, I18, Z2
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation