Coronavirus fears not stopping Rodeo fans

Experts are saying some people should avoid public places, but some events like the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo depend on large crowds. 

Online petitions are calling for the cancellation of rodeo events. One started by Houston Animal Activism states its purpose is to protect public health.

"There are just a lot of people here, and everyone’s touching everything, so you just got to be careful," Allison Zebian.

But rodeo officials say they're fighting off the spread of Coronavirus COVID-19 by almost doubling the amount of hand sanitizer stations.

Volunteers were offering squirts of hand sanitizer to people entering the NRG Center on Sunday.

They say they are also increasing cleaning staff and the sanitizing of areas people often touch like handrails and doorknobs.

"The flu is very real as well. We’ve had a couple of staff members over the last couple weeks that show some sign of illness," says Joel Cowley, Rodeo president and CEO. "They stayed home until they were fully recovered, so we are enforcing that with our staff and our volunteers."

Cowley says he was also sick with the flu a week before the show started and took the necessary time to recover.

"We’ve always been very cognizant of hygiene, but we are hyper cognizant this year," he adds.


People could find plenty of spots to wash up in the NRG center, but some said they were harder to find on carnival grounds.

"No hand sanitizer in there," says Diane Hollingworth who is visiting from Rhode Island. She used a portable toilet but there were no handwashing stations nearby. 

"There are some around but we brought our own," she says. 

Attendance numbers show average crowds are smaller than last year, but some of the counts are higher than in previous years. Rodeo officials say it may have more to do with entertainment than fear of the virus.

"I was telling my husband there aren’t that many people here. I see a difference from last year to this year," says Stephanie Salcedo who came with her family to see Ramon Ayala on Go Tejano Day. She says they didn't hesitate to step out, but they took antibiotics before leaving the house. "We're excited, but I think this is our last outing for a while."

Mayor Sylvestor Turner told the public Saturday that there was no need to cancel or avoid the rodeo because it is mostly a Houston area event, where there has been no community spread of the virus. For those who aren't canceling their plans, rodeo fans say come prepared to practice good hygiene. 

"Bring wipes, hand sanitizer, and some Kleenex in case there’s no toilet paper," adds Hollingworth.