Tens of thousands to attend Deer District watch party, doctors expect COVID cases to follow

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) - Tens of thousands of fans are expected to come to the Deer District to cheer on the Bucks on Tuesday. On Monday, the team announced they have expanded, allowing 65,000 fans to come for the watch party. Even with many fans being outdoors, doctors believe COVID cases will still come out of the gathering.

"We're starting with a pretty low baseline level of COVID-19 down in the Milwaukee area, which helps, and the Deer District is outside, which helps," said Dr. Jeff Pothof, chief quality officer at UW Health.

Doctors say even with some factors in our favor, there are still threats to unvaccinated fans during large gatherings in the Deer District, like the Delta variant and the intensity of fans screaming.

"If you're close to someone who has the Delta variant and you guys are yelling and screaming, some people will catch the Delta variant from that person that brought it into the Deer District," adds Dr. Pothof. "I do think we will see cases coming out of the Deer District with the Finals."

"Even though there's great ventilation going on outside, if you're in those close quarters, for several hours potentially, then the risk of transmission goes up," says Dr. Joyce Sanchez, infectious disease specialist at Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin.

The watch party comes as Wisconsin's Department of Health Services sees a 160-percent increase in the 7-day average of confirmed cases in the past two weeks -- from an average of 60 new cases a day on July 5 to 156 new cases a day on Monday, July 19.

Doctors say fully vaccinated fans are highly protected from getting COVID and transmitting it to others, but unvaccinated fans are at most risk.

In a statement, a Milwaukee Health Department spokesperson said:

"We continue to encourage anyone who is unvaccinated to wear masks in large gatherings such as the Deer District."

Doctors say unvaccinated fans should also try to keep their distance.

"Even three feet, I'd give a thumbs up to that, but you know when we're measuring space in inches and not feet, that's where the risk gets high," adds Dr. Pothof.  

As of July 15, the city of Milwaukee had 49.5-percent of adults 16 and older fully vaccinated.

"Based on our local vaccination rates, you can probably count on a good proportion of people attending who are unlikely to be vaccinated," said Dr. Sanchez.

The Milwaukee Health Department says they'll be out at the Deer District before the game on Tuesday, July 20 from 6 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. administering COVID vaccines. Anyone getting a vaccine will have a chance to win two tickets to Game 6.

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