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College town mayors 'humbly request' Big Ten help combat spread of COVID-19
Mayors of Big Ten college communities this week wrote an open letter to conference officials "humbly" requesting the enactment of measures "to ensure we have the tools we need to combat the spread of Covid-19."
"We know the history of football games within our cities," the letter said. "They generate a lot of activity, social gatherings and the consumption of alcohol. These activities within our communities have also been associated with an increased spread of COVID-19."
"We, as cities, continue to respond to issues as they arise, respective of the individual rules put in place within our regions," the letter continued. "To help us slow the spread and be prepared for increased activity, we humbly request a few practical measures that the Big Ten Conference can take to ensure we have the tools we need to combat the spread of COVID-19."
The Big Ten Conference includes 14 schools with football teams from universities such as Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin. The mayors asked that Big Ten officials reference coronavirus positivity rates from local communities in making decisions on whether to hold practices and games.
The mayors also requested that the Big Ten Conference release game times and schedules as early as possible and "make it a priority to host less or no games that take place in the evening or late afternoon, as these start times are associated with increased activity."
Mayor Aaron Stephens of East Lansing, Mich., home to Michigan State University, added in a separate statement Monday along with the letter's release that while the mayors "appreciate our college and university sports programs and the economic and community benefits that they provide, the COVID-19 crisis is far from over and we are expecting some potential new obstacles as a result of the upcoming football season."
The Big Ten Conference is scheduled to begin games this weekend following pressure from President Trump to resume the initially postponed season.
However, the president of a Big Ten university who asked not to be identified told NBC News last month when the decision was announced that "President Trump had nothing to do with our decision and did not impact the deliberations," adding instead that the conference opted to start the season after the development of rapid COVID-19 testing.
"In fact, when his [Trump's] name came up, it was a negative, because no one wanted this to be political," the university president added at the time.
The open letter from the mayors comes as several states where these schools are located have been experiencing spikes in COVID-19 cases at unprecedented rates.
In Wisconsin, for example, coronavirus hospitalizations have more than tripled in the past month, according to the COVID Tracking Project. The state has also set up a field hospital as Gov. Tony Evers (D) warns the hospital system is "beginning to become overwhelmed."
Wisconsin is recording about 3,000 new cases per day, a figure that continues to climb.
Coronavirus infections have also been rising in other Midwestern states where Big Ten teams play, including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Ohio.