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As Florida Combats COVID-19, Thousands Will Attend Miami Dolphins Games

The Miami Dolphins say 13,000 fans will be allowed in their home stadium when the NFL season begins next month. Miami is one of just a handful of NFL teams so far that have announced plans to allow fans to attend. The stadium also hosts the University of Miami Hurricanes, who have been cleared to play with fans present when their season begins on September 10.

At a news conference Monday at Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkel said in addition to social distancing measures, face masks will be required for all fans and stadium employees. The stadium has upgraded its air conditioning filters and is adopting touchless entry and food ordering along with other measures. The Dolphins say the stadium is the first to receive certification from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council.

The plans to welcome fans to the stadium were approved by Florida's Governor and the mayor of Miami-Dade County. The announcement follows several weeks in which Florida has seen its numbers of coronavirus cases decline.

Garfinkel says for now, seats will be sold for the first University of Miami home game against University of Alabama at Birmingham and the first Dolphins game against the Buffalo Bills on September 20. Garfinkel says, "After that, we'll take a look and see where the numbers are. If they get a lot worse, it's very conceivable we could have a situation later in the year where we don't have fans in the stadium."

A few other NFL teams including the Kansas City Chiefs, the Atlanta Falcons and the Dallas Cowboys have also said they will have a limited number of fans at their home openers. Several teams have said they won't have fans for their first home games. The prospect of some teams playing at home before fans, while others compete in empty stadiums has raised concerns it could provide an unfair advantage. When he heard Monday about the Dolphins decision to allow fans, Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott said, "I think it's honestly ridiculous that there will be, on the surface, what appears to be a playing field that's like that — inconsistently across the league with the different away stadiums."

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As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.