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Football takes over Charlotte this week; here are the COVID-19 risks health officials say to consider

Several large sporting events are set to happen against the backdrop of high viral spread in North Carolina.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte has some big football games this week, and fans might be making some decisions on activities with the current COVID-19 surge in mind.

Bank of America Stadium will host East Carolina University and Appalachian State University Thursday, and the University of Georgia and Clemson University Saturday. UNC Charlotte and Duke University will face off Friday at Jerry Richardson Stadium.

The large sporting events are set to happen against the backdrop of high viral spread in North Carolina. The latest data from the state's Department of Health and Human Services shows North Carolina is adding more than 6,000 new infections a day, on average, and hospitals across the state are approaching patient counts similar to the winter surge.

Bank of America Stadium's COVID-19 policies include a mask mandate for indoor spaces, while UNC Charlotte is asking fans to wear masks and only remove them while actively eating and drinking.

Although these games will largely keep most folks outdoors, where health experts say the coronavirus does not spread as easily, in many cases, the risk is still raised since the stands could be crowded with little opportunity to keep six feet from others. According to the latest CDC guidelines, this is a setting even fully vaccinated people are recommended to mask.

Dr. Jonathan Knoche, Medical Consultant with South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control, says that people choosing activities should consider their medical risk factors and those of the people they will be around afterward.

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"The recommendations are still in place that people wear a face mask when they're in indoor settings, that people maintain physical distance, and that people wash their hands frequently," Knoche said. "If people aren't feeling well, they shouldn't be going to any of those events, regardless of whether they're outside or inside."

For vaccinated people and those with natural immunity from a prior COVID-19 infection, doctors remind that immunity could be dampened by age, medical conditions or medications that impact the immune system, how far back the immunity developed, and how much virus a person was exposed to, in the case of prior infection.

Contact Vanessa Ruffes at vruffes@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram