Organizers of the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo are confident they have done everything possible to empower people to protect themselves from COVID-19 when the three-week event returns Jan. 14.
Organizers canceled last year’s show before vaccines were available. They had determined there was no way to safely hold the event amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Even as the omicron variant drives a sharp increase in cases, the wide availability of vaccines is a game changer, said Stock Show spokesperson Matt Brockman.
About 1.2 million people and 250 vendors are expected to attend the events at the Will Rogers Memorial Center and Dickies Arena, with the biggest crowds expected the weekends of Jan. 22 and Jan. 29. The event runs through Feb. 5.
Visitors will have access to a rapid testing station, masks and hand sanitizer. The Tarrant County Health Department will also host a vaccination clinic.
“We want you to come, but we want you to be safe,” Brockman said.
He also pointed to ventilation improvements, including a new HVAC system at the Will Rogers Memorial Center that uses bipolar ionization technology. Brockman touted the technology’s ability to kill viruses, including COVID-19, however, there is limited research evaluating its effectiveness outside lab conditions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The protections are in line with what we know works to stop the spread of COVID-19, said Diana Cervantes, assistant professor and director of the Master of Public Health program in epidemiology at the University of North Texas Health Science Center.
She said with the availability of vaccines, and the well-publicized importance of avoiding crowded spaces, people have all the tools they need to stay safe.
While cases of the omicron variant have surged in Tarrant County, Cervantes said the basic building blocks of how the variant is transmitted are the same. The biggest difference with omicron is how infectious it is, Cervantes said.
Some data indicates people can become infectious earlier after exposure compared to previous variants, she said. There’s also preliminary data showing the variant may evade some immune response.
However, Cervantes said the Stock Show’s approach to encourage people to take the proper precautions while empowering them to do so is the right one.
“Public health is about promotion,” Cervantes said, adding that mandating some behaviors may not protect against other behaviors that put people at risk.
Brockman said the goal is to give people every opportunity to keep themselves safe while encouraging them to do so.
“Never quit encouraging people to do the right thing,” he said.
The cancellation of the 2021 cost the city $110.2 million, according to an estimate from the city’s public events department. This year’s Stock Show is expected to generate $175 million in revenue, Brockman said.