Health experts weigh in on keeping Indiana safe during Big Ten Tournament

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament starts Tuesday, kicking off a busy month of basketball in the Circle City.

Downtown Indianapolis has been transformed for this large-scale event. You’ll notice it’s not just prettier, it’s also safer. Health experts are sending an urgent message to Hoosiers and guests so Indiana doesn’t backtrack in its COVID-19 progress during this grand opportunity.

“This is kind of our opportunity as a state and especially as a city to show that we can put on a large event like this very safely during this time of sort public health emergency,” said Regenstrief Institute Director of Public Health Informatics Dr. Brian Dixon.

COVID-19 is still spreading in central Indiana, but health experts like Dr. Paul Calkins at IU Health’s Methodist Hospital says the state is in good shape, despite a bump in cases late last week.

“We’ve been falling since early January, pretty dramatically actually. It does appear like state as a whole and central Indiana is kind of leveling out at the moment,” said Dr. Calkins.

To put that into perspective, our metrics are higher than last summer but lower than last fall. Dr. Dixon says while the numbers remain constant, that will be dependent upon Hoosiers and guests.

“Continue to take precautions. If you go out, continue to maintain social distance, wear your mask when you’re in public, wash your hands frequently, continue to do those things that we have said keeps transmission down,” said Dr. Dixon.

This rings especially true after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified 28 cases of the U.K. variant in Indiana.

“Of course that’s the big question mark, right? Because when the variants showed up in the U.K., their numbers went up almost vertically. I mean, it was very dramatic. So that’s the thing we’re really watching,” said Dr. Calkins.

The restaurants, bars and venues have taken additional safety precautions like outdoor seating, contactless payments and limiting capacity to continue to combat COVID while enjoying the big tournament.

“Use these tools that the city is putting in place to help keep the fans safe while we all enjoy the tournament, whether we watch it at home or whether we go downtown and are outside to enjoy some of the activities,” said Dixon.

Aside from the basic advice, experts also say if a bar or restaurant gets too crowded, go to another one. Downtown is essentially the playground for this event, so there will be plenty of places to go.

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