Seeing how amped the crowd was in Blacksburg, Va., on Friday night, it’s less surprising than the straight on-paper matchup would lead you to believe that unranked Virginia Tech upset No. 10 North Carolina, 17-10, in the season opener for both teams.
With Lane Stadium open at full capacity, the Hokies rode the energy of their supporters to a 14-0 halftime lead, then held on tight against a team that returned the core of a roster that went to the Orange Bowl last season.
The crowd really was something.
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There’s just one problem: that pesky pandemic, as much as we might wish it to be over, is not over.
Among Virginia’s 4,000-plus new COVID-19 cases reported on Friday, 50 were in Montgomery County, home of Virginia Tech. The county has gotten 45.2 percent of its residents vaccinated, well below the statewide rate of 57.0 percent.
But Virginia Tech is doing good! They’re even kicking out students who don’t get their vaccines. So a full crowd at a football game should be fine, right? And they’re requiring masks in indoor areas of the stadium, so it should be fine, right?
Well, it wasn’t just students at the game, and the unvaccinated don’t tend to be super big on compliance with mask mandates. And, yes, COVID-19 has generally had a much lower transmission rate outdoors, but that calculus appears to be changing with the Delta variant.
Given everything, do you really think none of those people jumping up and down to the strains of “Enter Sandman” had coronavirus? Do you really think nobody walked out of Lane Stadium newly infected?
Last September 26, the day of Virginia Tech’s 2020 home opener, there were 975 new COVID cases reported statewide in Virginia, and the Hokies played in front of only 1,000 fans. Friday, with more than quadruple the fresh COVID caseload, they packed the house. How does any of this make any sense?