U.S Olympic & Paralympic Museum provides a glimpse into what the future of large gatherings may look like

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COLORADO SPRINGS — In more than eight years since the U.S Olympic and Paralympic museum was first theorized, they could have never prepared leaders for the pandemic protocols the world now lives under.

Though, the new technology that was implemented as some of the first of its kind for the museum world may also be a look into the future of how events, large gatherings, and attractions can be held in the COVID-19 reality, according to public health experts.

“It’s really the dream of a public health official of what they’re able to do to allow people to have this experience but do so in a really incredibly safe way,” Deputy Medical Director for El Paso County Public Health Dr. Leon Kelly said.

Dr. Kelly has been working with museum leaders to develop a plan for opening and, outside of the standard CDC and statewide guidance and mandates, the technology already in place didn’t make it too difficult.

“We want people to understand that we are doing everything we possibly can to work with key health agencies to ensure that this visit is as safe as it can possibly be,” said Peter Maiurro, the chief of communications and business affairs for the museum.

Each visitor will get a stylus for the touch screens throughout the building (don’t let that distract from the screens that are touch-less, something seemingly out of a Sci-Fi movie).

Masks will be required, the capacity is set to less than half (35 people every 15 minutes), hand sanitizing stations are throughout the building and temperature and symptom checks will be performed at entry in order to catch someone who is sick before they come in.

“What if someone does?” Dr. Kelly theorized. “The inevitability of someone making it in there who has COVID is high. That’s the community that we’re living in, that’s the reality. What can they do about it after the fact.”

The “dream” Dr. Kelly speaks of is in the technology that would allow each visitor’s experience to be unique. Each visitor will get an RFID tag at the entrance of the museum that allows a visitor to pick their favorite sport or athletes to customize the experience.

“The museum is designed in a narrative arc,” said Maiurro. “It has a very descriptive path.”

Along that path, the RFID tag can tell museum operators how many people are in the building, in a specific exhibit and who those people are near. With that information, if a person who is sick is in the museum, contact tracers can see who exactly that person was near in order to limit the number of people that need to be tracked down.

It means a handful of people would need to isolate themselves instead of everyone who was at the museum that day.

Dr. Kelly sees that kind of technology as a key piece of the future as the pandemic continues.

“The museum is a perfect example of what you can do with technology, creativity, accepting the world in which we live and say, I’m not going to push back against that this is reality, it is, what can we do? What can do to live with it and be smart and help protect people but get on with our lives,” he said.

The museum is the first of its kind, highlighting the Olympic history as well as athletes and para-athletes who have competed and won gold for the U.S.A. With that in mind, it is likely to attract people from around the country.

El Paso County has seen rising cases for several weeks now and several areas of the country are experiencing their worst levels of spread since the pandemic began. Dr. Kelly says, he knows the steps that can help curb that trend—masks, distancing, hygiene, and testing—and its the key to economic viability.

“It’s on us to, as we continue to invite our other Americans to our community, even though we’ve done a good job historically in our control, as they come in that we are making it clear what our expectations are for them,” Dr. Kelly said.

Tickets will be available in 15-minute windows and can be found here.

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