Oklahoma City Thunder announces game changer for fans as COVID-19 cases rise

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma City Thunder made a game changer announcement for fans concerning COVID-19 health and safety protocols at the Paycom Center Monday.

Starting with the home game on December 1, attendees will no longer be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, after being required to do so since the start of the season.

“Since we announced the protocols in September, the Oklahoma Department of Health reports the percentage of Oklahoma County residents 12 and older who are fully or partially vaccinated has risen to 85%,” a team spokesman said. “The number of COVID cases statewide has dropped approximately 60% and hospitalizations have declined at similar rates.”

It was also announced that the requirement for children ages 2 to 11 to wear masks will also be lifted.

Thunder Vice President of Communications Dan Mahoney said more than 95 percent of the fans that have been coming to home games this season have provided their vaccine cards and their staff wouldn’t be changing their safety protocols if they didn’t feel it was safe.

“We’re not out of this yet,” he said. “This is not a statement that COVID is over. We looked at the trend from September to now late November and that’s where we end up with the cases down, the hospitalizations down, vaccination rate up.”

Mahoney explained they consulted with medical professionals and their partners at OU Health to come to the decision. 

“Our whole goal here is to mitigate the spread, to do what we could to mitigate the spread,” he said. “You’re not going to stop the spread anywhere, but with a high vaccination rate, people are not going to get sick necessarily and they’re certainly not going to be hospitalized in many cases if they’re fully vaccinated. And so, we’re comfortable with that.”

He emphasized safety is still a priority.

“We still want people to be safe, to be smart,” he said. “If you’re sick, don’t come to the game. If you have symptoms, get tested. If you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated. If you don’t wear a mask, wear a mask. All those things still apply.”

Oklahoma State Medical Association President Dr. Mary Clarke called the Thunder’s change of protocol “extremely risky.” She noted that new COVID cases have been rising “dramatically” in Oklahoma for the past two weeks.

November 22’s 7-day rolling average of 825 new cases is higher than November 15’s which sat at 787 and November 8’s which was 665.

“We do not know how sharp that rise will be,” Clarke said. “We also don’t know how high the rise will go until we get to that point, but we do know it’s a rise.”

She wishes the Thunder would continue requiring proof of vaccination.

“I am concerned,” she said. “I’m a little disappointed that they’re no longer going to require those. The Thunder have been the absolute forerunner of making sure they have an arena to go to that is safe for themselves and for their fans.”

The current Thunder protocols – proof of vaccination or negative test – remain in place for home games on Nov. 24 and 26.

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