Watching the Big Dance? 4 Ways to Celebrate March Madness Safely

An emergency medicine physician offers tips to slow the spread of COVID-19 and limit hospitalizations.

2:53 PM

Author | Noah Fromson

orange basketball shadow on court floor line
Getty Images

Editor's note: Information on the COVID-19 crisis is constantly changing. For the latest numbers and updates, keep checking the CDC's website. For the most up-to-date information from Michigan Medicine, visit the hospital's Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage.

In its return from a pandemic-forced hiatus, the NCAA tournament has not disappointed. Overtime games, buzzer-beating shots and underdog upsets are making up for all the madness fans missed last March.

Successful advancements by any team are often accompanied by some bedlam – packed sports bars, watch parties and, with a deep run, celebration in the streets. Despite an ongoing health emergency, fans will still make some concerning decisions, says an emergency physician from the Department of Emergency Medicine at Michigan Medicine.

"As happy as we are to see the teams making it as far as they are, we recognize that as people get together, there is an opportunity for COVID to spread," says Brad Uren, M.D., also an assistant professor of emergency medicine. "That's really the last thing that we want to see this close to the finish line."

Uren also notes that a surge in alcohol consumption, another issue during major sporting events, adds a layer of difficulty to containment. 

Like Podcasts? Add the Michigan Medicine News Break on iTunes, Google Podcast or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

"We would prefer in the emergency department that we don't see anybody coming to use our services as a result of overindulgence," he says. "And frequently, the more alcohol we drink, the more we're celebrating, maybe the less we're thinking about all of the things that keep us safe."

Here, Uren offers a few ways to celebrate your favorite teams during March Madness all while staying safe:

1. Know who is vaccinated.

In Michigan, all adults are eligible to receive the COVID vaccine on April 5. While vaccination is ramping up everywhere, there are still many people who have not received the shot yet.

The Centers for Disease Control guidance permits people who are vaccinated to gather with others who are also immunized without masks or social distancing.

"But we need to keep in mind that there's going to be a lot of people, particularly some of the younger sports fans, that may not be eligible for the vaccine yet," Uren says. "So, caution still needs to be taken."

2. Stay vigilant about precautions.

For Michigan, the state is currently experiencing another COVID-19 spike. Recently, the daily case count surpassed 4,000; a number not seen since early January. Pushing aside pandemic fatigue, especially around unvaccinated people, is key, Uren says.

SEE ALSO: Wanting the Pandemic to be Over is Not Enough

"It's important to maintain that social distancing and wear masks," he says. "That's really important at a time where people will be celebrating. They'll be eating, they'll be snacking, they'll be drinking some alcohol, perhaps. Those are things that involve taking off your mask."

3. Move outside if possible.

Anything to facilitate greater distancing is helpful, Uren says. Although fans still need to remain cautious wherever they are.

"Outdoors, there may be less concern about respiratory droplets and respiratory spread," Uren explains. "If going outside is something people can do, that may be helpful in allowing for more space or people to spread out and celebrate responsibly."

4. Remember this legendary football coach's speech.

During the 1983 football season, Michigan football coach, Bo Schembechler, gave a speech famously titled "The Team." He told his squad that "no man is more important than the team…the team, the team the team."

Michigan fan or not, Uren says Schembechler's words apply to all basketball fans as the world tries to end the pandemic.

MORE FROM MICHIGAN: Sign up for our weekly newsletter

"We are all on the same team," Uren says. "If we remember that speech and work together and maintain these recommendations a little longer, I think we're going to have a great summer and a great time moving forward. But we just really need to remember we're all in this together and we're working together; we shouldn't criticize each other. Being responsible a little bit longer is going to get us through this."

SEE ALSO: Your Smartphone Can Help Fight COVID. Here's How.

More Articles About: Preventative health and wellness Urgent Care Covid-19 Community Health Health Care Delivery, Policy and Economics Wellness and Prevention Emergency & Trauma Care
Health Lab word mark overlaying blue cells
Health Lab

Explore a variety of health care news & stories by visiting the Health Lab home page for more articles.

Media Contact Public Relations

Department of Communication at Michigan Medicine

[email protected]


Stay Informed

Want top health & research news weekly? Sign up for Health Lab’s newsletters today!

Featured News & Stories counter with credit card machine and white bag
Health Lab
Cost may not keep people from filling opioid addiction treatment prescriptions
Buprenorphine prescriptions almost always get filled by those who receive them to treat opioid addiction, even when costs are higher, suggesting more effort is needed to increase prescribing.
screen of chart and xray and patient and doctor white coat vague in background at computer sitting at keyboard
Health Lab
Pre-op visits by video? Most surgeons say no – but open to post-op telehealth
A survey of surgeons shows most aren’t in favor of operating on a patient they’ve never seen in person, but many are open to telehealth appointments after a successful operation.
mom sitting at end of bed with child laying down moon outside purple bedroom green covers tan pillow
Health Lab
Bedtime battles: 1 in 4 parents say their child can’t go to sleep because they’re worried or anxious
Many bedtime battles stem from children’s after dark worries, suggests a national poll.
person holding arm with band aid teal shirt
Health Lab
More hospitals than ever require staff to get flu shots
Flu vaccination mandates for hospital staff have increased in recent years, especially at hospitals serving veterans
heart drawing
Health Lab
New risk equation could mean preventive statins for far fewer Americans
The tool, based on updated information about atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, could mean fewer people would be recommended to take statin medications
woman smiling with white short hair and earrings dark with orange background
Health Lab
Using biologic injections for severe asthma after COVID
Biologic injections end up being the best treatment for treating severe asthma after having COVID for one patient.