With the National Finals Rodeo and official rodeo events underway in Arlington and Fort Worth, city officials are urging attendees to be mindful of regulations related to COVID-19.
The Fort Worth Convention Center is hosting Cowboy Christmas alongside the National Finals Rodeo at Globe Life Field in Arlington.
Guests are expected to wear masks unless they are eating or drinking, but photos emailed to NBC 5 from a concerned viewer who wished to remain anonymous claimed “as soon as people walk in they are taking them off. Even the vendors are not wearing face masks and/or practicing social distancing.”
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“We’ve received the same observations,” said Michael Crum, the director of Fort Worth's public events department. “I think mask-wearing ebbs and flows during the day. Our attendees and our vendors are human. They start the day with the mask on. You grab a beverage, you eat a burger. Sometimes you forget to put the mask back on.”
Cowboy Christmas is expected to draw up to 10,000 people per day to the convention center, though Crum said they “will not come close to having 8,000 people in the building at any one point.”
Guests’ temperatures are taken when they arrive and if they do not have a mask, they are offered one.
“I think it’s to be mindful of the local and state regulations and to work with us on the mask-wearing regulation,” Crum said, referring to their message to the public. “There are ‘wear a mask’ signs and banners all over the concourse. On the show floor, the show managers making announcements every 15 minutes to remind people. What we’re striving for is everyone makes that personal decision to ensure their own safety by wearing their mask.”
Throughout town, there are also "ambassadors" providing masks. Mitch Whitten, executive vice president of marketing and strategy for Visit Fort Worth, said the city’s visitor center is now serving as their mask distribution center.
“A lot of these people are coming to Fort Worth for the first time and we wanted them to have all of the latest information, all the things to do,” Whitten said. "We’ve had red jacket ambassadors in jackets donated by Dickies out giving out NFR, Fort Worth gator masks, as well as make sure people knew the benefits of wearing a mask so we can keep things open, and so they can enjoy the National Finals Rodeo safely.”
For months, health professionals have been advising against large gatherings to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Dr. Tyson Garfield is a geriatrician at the University of North Texas Health Science Center said the number that is "generally accepted" as a large gathering is anything over 10 people.
“I know that’s confusing to some people because we think of large gatherings as hundreds, thousands of people. Right now, I would say gatherings over 10 is large,” Garfield said. “Just in general, the larger the gathering, the higher chance there being someone with COVID and spreading COVID as well.”
While the best course of action is to avoid large gatherings, Garfield said anyone who attends should do their best to keep a distance from others and wear their mask properly.
“Try not to let your circle of people intermix with other circles,” he said.
The city of Fort Worth is also rapid COVID-19 testing at three additional sites during the National Finals Rodeo. The locations are the Fort Worth Convention Center, Will Rogers Memorial Center, and the Fort Worth Stockyards.