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Madison mayor joins letter urging Big Ten to take more COVID-19 precautions for football games

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FILE(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
Published: Oct. 20, 2020 at 8:58 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 20, 2020 at 4:57 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway is worried the University of Wisconsin and other Big Ten schools not taking enough precautions to protect their communities from the coronavirus.

On Tuesday, she joined all the other mayors of all but one of the cities where Big Ten universities to sign an open letter to the conference and universities urging them to take more steps during football games to guard against the spread of COVID-19.

“While we all 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,” said Mayor Aaron Stephens, of East Lansing, Michigan, the home of Michigan State University.

For starters, the mayors are asking Big Ten officials to work with local health officials to determine at what point, based on the percentage of total tests that are positive, the conference would deem it no longer safe to host a game in that city. Currently, the Dane Co. seven-day rolling average for percent-positive stands at 4.64 percent, according to the latest DHS numbers.

“We hope that by continuing to work with our individual colleges and universities, our public health officials and the Big Ten Conference, we can be as prepared as possible for the return of football in our communities,” Stephens continued.

The mayors would also like the conference to release its full schedule, along with game times. So far this year, the conference has only released game times for the first two weeks of the season and those were only released in the week preceding the games.

In addition to knowing the game times, the mayors want the conference to avoid scheduling games at night or in the early evening, stating those games would increase activities such as social gatherings and alcohol consumption, thereby increasing the risk of community spread. The Badgers only home game for which a game time has been announced is a night game, set to open the conference season this Friday.

The only four mayors not to sign the letter were the mayors of New Brunswick, New Jersey, home of Rutgers University; Lincoln, Nebraska, home of University of Nebraska; Champaign-Urbana, the twin cities home of the University of Illinois.

A spokesperson for Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird told NBC15 News that Baird could not attend Friday’s meeting involving the mayors. Diane Gonzolas, Lincoln’s city communications manager, explained Baird only learned of the letter on Monday and did not have time discuss the contents of the letter with their local health director and the University of Nebraska’s Administration and Athletics department, with whom they have "had a strong, collaborative working relationship throughout the pandemic.

“The Mayor appreciates her colleagues' and the Big 10′s shared commitment to keeping our communities safe,” she added.

NBC15 also reached out to Champaign Mayor Deborah Feinen, New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill, and Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin to ask about the letter. None of the three have chosen to respond.

The mayor of Lansing, Michigan, Andy Schor, also signed the letter. That city neighbors MSU’s home city.

The full list of mayors and their respective cities is listed below:

  • Mayor Aaron Stephens; East Lansing, Mich.
  • Mayor Andy Schor; Lansing, Mich.
  • Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway; Madison, Wis.
  • Mayor Patrick L. Wojahn; College Park, Md.
  • Mayor Ronald Filippelli; State College, Pa.
  • Mayor Christopher Taylor; Ann Arbor, Mich.
  • Mayor Steve Hagerty; Evanston, Ill.
  • Mayor John Dennis; West Lafayette, Ind.
  • Mayor Jacob Frey; Minneapolis, Minn.
  • Mayor John Hamilton; Bloomington, Ind.
  • Mayor Bruce Teague; Iowa City, Iowa
  • Mayor Andrew Ginther; Columbus, Ohio

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