Flo Thamba #0 of the Baylor Bears blocks a shot by Corey Kispert #24 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the first half of the National Championship game of the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 05, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
(Photo by Brett Wilhelm/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

“Handful” of NCAA Fans Contacted About Possible COVID Exposure After Bama Superfan’s Death

(INDIANAPOLIS) — Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett says the NCAA tournament was a “clear
success” for the city from both a business and public health standpoint. But the health
department will stay on the lookout for any COVID infections linked to the tourney.

Marion County Health Department director Virginia Caine says there’s no risk to customers of
Indy’s iconic Saint Elmo Steakhouse, despite the COVID-19 death of a bartender there and
illnesses in eight other employees. Caine is more vague about the death of University of Alabama
student and Crimson Tide superfan Mark “Fluffopotamus” Ratliff, citing privacy laws. Ratliff died
Friday, reportedly of COVID-19, four days after attending Bama’s Sweet 16 loss to UCLA. Caine
says “a handful” of fans have been contacted about possible COVID exposure, and says the
Marion County and Indiana health departments are working with Alabama’s Department of Public
Health.

Marion County cases and positivity rates have been slowly rising over the last month, but Caine
says while she’ll be watching those numbers closely over the next two weeks, she doesn’t believe
they’re connected to the tournament. She notes cases have been going up throughout the state,
and faster in other counties than in Indy. Caine predicts another surge, but says based on the
slow pace of the current increase, she expects it to be milder than the steep climb after
Thanksgiving.

Marion County is one of at least seven which still has a local mask order, despite the expiration of
a statewide order after eight months. Caine says while positivity rates are still good, the number of
cases needs to drop and the number of vaccinated residents needs to rise before the county
relaxes health measures.

Indy will award a million dollars in grants next month to community organizations in a position to
do targeted vaccine outreach to increase the number of people getting the shot. Caine says
proposals could include telling people where vaccination sites are or helping them get there, or
explaining the vaccine’s benefits.

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