The U.S. Open attracted nearly 750,000 fans to its grounds during its two-week-long run in 2019. Similar numbers are expected to be at this year’s event.
But two years ago, there was no coronavirus pandemic. Last year, the tournament was held without fans, and this year the United States Tennis Association will allow them back into what could be one of the most heavily attended mass gatherings in New York since the pandemic began in 2020.
The U.S.T.A. has set Monday as the official start date for the tournament. The U.S.T.A. issued protocol for players, fans and officials on Tuesday. These policies are considerably more relaxed that they were last.
No proof of vaccination or a recent negative coronavirus test will be required for fans to enter the grounds, and no masks will be required when they are outdoors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is recommended that fans who are not vaccinated wear masks outside.
The event will take part in large numbers outdoors. Even though the roofs of Louis Armstrong and Arthur Ashe are closed, both stadiums that have roofs — Louis Armstrong and Arthur Ashe — will be considered for outdoor use. That is because the stadiums’ ventilation systems are considered adequate, U.S.T.A. According to officials.
Brian Hainline, a physician and a member of the U.S.T.A.’s medical advisory board who is also the chief medical officer of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, said the protocols for fans and players had been developed with the approval and consultation of New York City health officials.
Dr. Hainline indicated that although sometimes they go above and beyond what New York City recommends for them, “but we never do less than what New York City’s health authorities recommend for us.”
Players will have more freedom than last year when many complained of isolation after being held in Long Island’s hotel. All players will be tested upon arrival and then tested every four days after that. Stacey Allaster is the tournament director.
The player would also need to spend 10 days in isolation at his or her hotel.
While the main draw starts on Monday, qualifying rounds begin Tuesday, with no fans. The qualifying tournament attracts many local tennis players, who are able to attend for free. That is not the case this year, because with so many players on site at once, extra space was needed on the grounds to accommodate them without crushing everyone into the same locker rooms.
However, once the main event begins it will almost be business-as-usual. Maskless fans will roam the grounds and sit next to one other, just as with New York City’s two baseball teams, The Mets and the Yankees.
Dr. Hainline said that some of the strategy behind the relatively relaxed protocols had been derived from monitoring the situations at the two baseball stadiums, which opened to full capacities in June.
Without proof of vaccination, fans will be required to wear masks inside and outside while shopping or eating.
Dr. Hainline said that although masks are not required for outdoor fans, he encourages those not vaccinated to use them during the tournament. He knows that not all people will get the virus, and that there is no way to avoid all forms of transmission at such a large event as the U.S. Open.
He said, “The goal isn’t to prevent a single disease.” “The goal should be to prevent an outbreak, or an uptick. New York City’s progress has been very steady. We will continue to monitor the situation and will be following all advice from health authorities.
Players who aren’t vaccinated are advised to wear masks when they aren’t practicing or competing. If they come into close contact with someone who has the coronavirus, they will be required to go into quarantine. According to tournament physicians, vaccinated players may not need to be in quarantine after coming into contact with someone who has the coronavirus. A tournament physician may recommend that unvaccinated players, even if they have not been tested positive, withdraw from the tournament.
The U.S.T.A. The U.S.T.A. stated that it was still collecting data on the number of players who had been vaccinated. However, Dr. Hainline said that this was far below the 85 percent rate that he claimed N.C.A.A.. The achievement of student-athletes in all three sports was impressive. Stefanos Tsitsipas (third-ranked player on men’s tour) said last week that he hadn’t been vaccinated.
Tsitsipas’s logic was clearly rejected by Dr. Hainline. Hainline pointed out that Delta variants of the virus are spreading more rapidly than older forms.
Dr. Hainline acknowledged that Tsitsipas said what he meant, but it wasn’t based on all the information available to him. It doesn’t reflect the evidence we have.
The players will be accommodated in two Midtown Manhattan hotels, rather than the Long Island hotel where they were most comfortable last year. Allaster explained that tournament organizers were able to hear from the players that the isolation was hard to bear, not only last year but also throughout 2020. So the protocols allow for some flexibility away from the event grounds. Players can book tables at restaurants or attend theater events. Allaster claimed that New York’s vaccination rates, as well as the advice given by public health officials, had allowed the U.S.T.A. to make a decision. There was confidence that the tournament protocols were sufficient. Not only from New York but all over the world are invited to the U.S. Open.
“Everyone, every day, is living the virus,” she stated. “It is therefore our collective responsibility on how we do this, with the protocols set in place.”