Although most of the athletes, coaches, and support staff participating in the Dallas Open are vaccinated against COVID-19, the relatively high rate of breakthrough Omicron infections necessitates that participants be tested, according to a physician working at the event.
“In order to ensure that people are not early in their infection, for example, without symptoms, so that they might get sick or infected and may get other people sick, we have to test, unfortunately, because Omicron has such a high rate of breaking through [with] those that are even vaccinated,” said Matrix Clinical Solutions Chief Medical Officer Dan Meltzer, M.D.
The inaugural tournament is taking place indoors at the SMU Styslinger/Altec Tennis Complex. It is the first professional tennis event in Dallas since 1989, according to media reports. The first qualifying round started on February 6, and the tournament will continue all week, concluding on Sunday, February 13, with the singles and doubles final matches.
Eighteen of the top-100 ranked ATP players will be competing in the event, including Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and Americans John Isner and Reilly Opelka. Players from twenty-two countries are playing in the tournament.
“Obviously, the number of athletes that will be tested will change day by day in terms of who’s invited and then who qualifies and who gets knocked out on the first round,” Meltzer told The Dallas Express.
Meltzer feels optimistic about the protocols in place and the safety of the players. “We’re dealing with a very, very high rate of vaccinated individuals,” Meltzer said in an interview. “It’s a rate that exceeds the general population, working or otherwise, and elite athletes generally don’t have the comorbid medical conditions that the general population does.”
The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) requires any unvaccinated athletes or staff members to be tested every 48 hours while on-site during the event. “There may be serial testing that ensues,” Meltzer said. “So, we may test a lot on day one. We may test less on day four. We may test less on day seven.”
Meltzer declined to disclose whether anyone had tested positive for the coronavirus so far. If someone should test positive, the individual can request a retest and a consultation with a medical professional.
“Those cases that initially test positive and then have a second test are all under review of the medical infrastructure that in part is supported by the ATP and in part is provided by us,” Meltzer said. “My staff is, by and large, providing the testing services.”
“An infection control officer who’s a physician ultimately gets to decide whether the person plays or not,” Meltzer added.
It is unclear whether there are any COVID-19 safety requirements for fans attending the tournament. No information is available on the Dallas Open website, and a tournament representative has not responded.
GF Sports & Entertainment, founded in July 2015 by the New York-based private equity firm GF Capital, owns the Dallas Open and the Truist Atlanta Open, as well as the National Lacrosse League New York Riptide.