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The Arizona Cardinals allowed a limited number of fans, including family members and “close friends,” during a Sept. 27 home game against the Detroit Lions.

The stadium will be a bit more lively when the Cardinals host the Seattle Seahawks at Glendale’s State Farm Stadium at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25.

The Cardinals said they will allow about 1,500 season ticket holders to watch the team take on its biggest rival.

“Seats from this very limited allotment will be made available exclusively to season ticket members in account seniority order,” the team said in a release. “To accommodate the greatest number of season-ticket members, seats will only be sold in quantities of two and assigned in adherence with all local and state COVID-19 guidelines.” 

Attendance has also been limited at high school games, with the Peoria Unified School District also requiring those who attend events to wear masks.

Meanwhile, a prominent health expert has expressed worry about rising COVID-19 numbers across Arizona, saying the trend is reminiscent of early summer conditions that preceded a spike in cases and rollback of measures to reopen businesses.

“This is a moment to sort of stop and take measure and think hard about: What can we do to prevent this?” said Joshua LaBaer, executive director of Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, which is tracking case trends across Arizona’s 15 counties, as well as in the state overall and the nation.

LaBaer said 902 new cases were reported Oct. 14  by the Arizona Department of Health Services, and “we haven’t seen that in a while.” 

New cases in the state topped 1,000 Oct. 15 and Oct. 20. One week ago, that daily number of new cases was 786.

“In terms of numbers of new cases, we are on a path headed toward exponential growth,” LaBaer said. “The tricky thing about exponential growth is that it doesn’t look like it’s growing very fast at first. The numbers day over day don’t look like they’re big changes. But then all of a sudden, it really can take off. And so I am concerned.”

On May 29, the state reported 909 new cases. One month later, on June 29, the daily number peaked at 5,461.

When cases first began popping up across Arizona in March, Gov. Doug Ducey and county and municipal leaders implemented policies to help prevent spread. The closure of nonessential businesses, along with mask mandates, were credited with slowing the disease in the community.

But as cases started to decline, restrictions eased, too.

For example, schools in Peoria and across the state have reopened, with sporting events beginning earlier this month.

As of Oct. 1, no county in the state remained in the “substantial” transmission category, meaning restaurants, movie theaters, gyms and other businesses could begin reopening.

“The choices Arizonans have made in the interest of public health have gotten us to this milestone,” said Dr. Cara Christ, director of the state health department, at the time.

But there must be a balance between public policy and personal responsibility, LaBaer said, urging anyone in a public-facing job or who interacts with new people to get tested on a regular basis.

“We’re still not testing enough,” he said. “People are just not showing up.”

LaBaer said if sporting events and other gatherings can’t be kept small, he recommends mask wearing, social distancing and testing before the event to ensure safety.

“We have to really be thoughtful about gatherings of people,” LaBaer said. 

“It’s just not good right now to bring a lot of people together, and if people are coming together, they really need to be wearing masks and maintaining distancing.”