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NFL's Minnesota Vikings ends plan to let some fans inside the stadium, citing COVID-19

The NFL's Minnesota Vikings will bar fans from attending home games for the rest of the season, citing the state's recent rise in COVID-19 cases.

During home games this season, the Vikings have hosted 250 family members of team staff inside U.S. Bank Stadium — the Minnesota Department of Health's mandated occupancy limit. The Vikings wanted to invite an additional 250 fans to the last four home games of the season, but reversed course on Wednesday.

"We take seriously Minnesota's rising COVID infection rates and increasing hospitalizations and believe closing the final four home games to fans is the right decision to help protect our community," the Vikings said in a statement. "While we have worked hard to develop a safe and responsible plan to bring back a limited number of fans, our decisions have been based on medical guidance with public health as the top priority."

Minnesota governor announces new COVID-19 res... 05:41

The Vikings decision comes as the U.S. wrestles with an alarming upsurge in COVID-19 cases. Minnesota has nearly 190,000 confirmed cases, while more than 2,750 infected with the virus have died, according to John Hopkins University and state health department data. The state experienced a record-high number of new cases in the first week of November. The highest number of new cases comes from Hennepin County, where the Vikings play their home games. 

On Tuesday, a record 60,000 Americans were hospitalized with the coronavirus, according to the COVID Tracking Project, with hospitals around the country rapidly filling up.

Minnesota is one five states that have re-instituted restrictions on gatherings and business activities as the coronavirus flares, according to a research note from investor advisory firm Height Securities. The other four states to clamp down: Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina and North Dakota.

CDC guidance on masks and holiday plans 05:57

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said this week that the state will soon establish a 10-person limit on private social gatherings both indoors and outdoors. State health department data shows that outbreaks in restaurants and bars rose sharply in October and the first five days of November. Bars and restaurants will now be limited to 50% capacity, with a maximum of 150 people, the governor said.

NFL franchises have taken a mixed approach this season to letting people in stadiums during the pandemic. Teams in Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Pittsburgh still welcome a limited number of fans, while franchises in Buffalo, Chicago, Las Vegas and Miami ban them.

The coronavirus is also affecting college football, with more than 50 games canceled or postponed so far this season. On Wednesday, the University of Maryland canceled its planned match against Ohio State University "due to an elevated number of COVID-19 cases."

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