An indoor watch party for Nebraska’s season opener — promoted as an alternative for football fans barred from attending the game in person — has been called off because of safety concerns.

“As we’ve learned, the covid-19 pandemic is unpredictable, and with the current high number of cases and hospitalizations, we reconsidered this event,” officials from Pinnacle Bank Arena, which planned to host the event, said in a statement to Omaha.com.

The watch party was announced after schools in the Big Ten league agreed that they wouldn’t sell football tickets to the general public, a move intended to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. As a substitute, the arena in Lincoln offered specials on beer and hot dogs and a chance to watch the game on a big screen.

Although Nebraska is one of many Midwestern states where coronavirus infections have surged in recent weeks, state regulations permit the arena to hold events at 50 percent capacity. The watch party was capped at 2,500 people, roughly 16 percent of its capacity.

The arena had planned to require attendees to wear masks and sit in socially distanced “pods,” but many questioned the wisdom of holding a large indoor event at a time when coronavirus cases are rising.

“This is absurd,” one Nebraska physician wrote on Twitter. “… You can’t eat a hot dog through a mask.”

The Washington Post

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