When the Las Vegas Raiders kick off their NFL season next month, the team wants its home stadium to look as normal as possible, with stands full of fans. There's just one catch: To get in, every spectator will have to show proof they've gotten a COVID-19 vaccine. Anyone who hasn't can still enter — after they get a shot at Allegiant Stadium.
Vaccinated fans won't be required to wear masks
Spectators will be required to show proof of their vaccination status on a mobile app with a "health pass" feature, the Raiders organization said. If they do so, they can attend games without wearing a face mask.
Fans who have opted to get a vaccine shot just before entering the stadium will have to wear a mask due to the lag time for the vaccines to take full effect.
The Raiders' rules will be in effect for the team's first regular season home game — a Monday Night Football matchup with the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 13.
The CDC says even vaccinated people should wear masks
The Raiders unveiled their new policy late Monday after Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak announced a shift in his recent mask mandate that opens the door for large-scale venues to hold mask-free events if all guests are vaccinated.
"This is cutting edge. There's no other venues in the country that are doing this," Sisolak said, adding he hopes people feel reassured about attending an event where everyone is vaccinated.
In late July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on masks, stating: "If you are fully vaccinated, to maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission."
The agency's website currently lists Clark County, Nev. — home to Allegiant Stadium — as a place where the level of community transmission is high.
NFL says teams form their own policies on vaccines
The Raiders say their vaccine rule reflects Sisolak's latest policies on holding large events. The team was already requiring vaccines for all employees — a move it says was mirrored by stadium and concessions operators.
The NFL says it's not considering a league-wide policy on vaccination, allowing teams to coordinate with local officials and health experts as well as follow federal guidelines.
"We are planning on full stadiums across the league this year but will remain flexible and adaptable as necessary," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told NPR. "Like last season, there may be different fan experiences, depending on the current situation in the local markets working in conjunction with public health authorities."
What are other NFL teams doing?
The Raiders say their new rule makes them "the first team in the National Football League to announce a vaccine/no mask policy."
But they're not the first team to announce an attendance policy linked to vaccines: Last week, the New Orleans Saints said the Superdome will be open to spectators at full capacity for the first time in more than a year and a half.
Citing new local policies from New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, the team added that fans who want to attend home games must show either proof of vaccination or the negative results of a coronavirus test taken within 72 hours before game time.
The mayor's policy applies to all events at the Superdome, along with restaurants, bars and other congregating spots.
Both Cantrell and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards have issued indoor mask mandates for everyone age 5 and older — another policy that the Saints and their fans will follow.
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Things continue to go from bad to worse in Afghanistan as the Taliban takes over more and more of the country - at least two-thirds at this point. One person who is enduring on the ground what is currently unfolding in the country is Rangina Hamidi. She's currently serving as acting minister of education in Afghanistan and joins us now from Kabul.
RANGINA HAMIDI: Thank you.
CHANG: So can you just tell us what's been happening where you are today? What is your sense of your safety right now?
HAMIDI: We are coming to the end of hot summer days. So although I have confirmed and reconfirmed to many family and friends who've been messaging me all day long to make the decision to leave because of what they hear on the news halfway across the world, I feel fine. It's been quiet. So far, there is no obvious sign of insecurity in the sense of physically hearing or physically seeing things get worse. But we do know, obviously, that throughout the country, we've been losing major cities in the past couple of weeks.
CHANG: I understand that you are from Kandahar and that your father was assassinated by the Taliban in 2011 when he was mayor. What are you hearing about what is happening on the ground in Kandahar at this moment?
HAMIDI: Yesterday, all day long, the phone connections for family and friends who still remain in Kandahar have been shut off from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. for the last week or so, since the fighting was going on. And then yesterday, the phones were shut off all day long until late evening last night, when we heard that Kandahar had fallen as well. This morning, luckily, I heard from a few friends and family members who are still remaining in Kandahar. They obviously shared that the obvious fighting that was happening between the government forces and the Taliban have stopped or have come down drastically. But Taliban members with ammunitions on their back and guns and whatever other means of force that they are using are roaming around the city, walking all across the city. And nobody knows what they are planning to do or what is going to happen next. There is a lot of fear among girls and women. I have had many messages from my female family friends, calling me, asking me what I know and what they should expect. And I wish I had an answer for them.
CHANG: Yeah. Well, as we have said, you are the acting minister of education for Afghanistan. Do you have a sense at this point how these gains that the Taliban is making across the country, how that has affected the education system in Afghanistan?
HAMIDI: Well, it's, again, very, very early to speak anything to that. But the reality is, in general, that the psyche of the Afghan population, be it adults or children, has changed drastically. I can assure you that when you're living in a war zone, no matter what system of education you try to bring to that environment and no matter how much focus you put on quality to make a great curriculum and, you know, provide the great service, if children are haunted by images of destruction and, you know, the sounds of destruction on a daily basis, I don't know which society on this Earth can really operate in any normalcy, if we can call it that. So...
HAMIDI: It's honestly very, very difficult. And I'll tell you personally, I have a young daughter who is in fifth grade in my house. We have other kids living with us. And today, they were playing outside in the garden. As I was looking at them, you know, they're oblivious to what is happening in Afghanistan. But me as a mother, sitting in my home, feeling the unease, it struck me to think and look at them and say, God forbid, but something can happen any minute. And these joyous little girls playing in the garden may end in a second. And that's what millions and millions of Afghans unfortunately face every day.
CHANG: Yeah. And may I ask, what are you personally telling other government officials? What is your view of what should be happening?
HAMIDI: I wish what I said could be heard not - and I'm not - because I think at this moment, my government is under a lot of stress and under a lot of pressure. And with the lives that we're losing of our brave soldiers who continue to fight this unjust war and the incredible amount of pressure from many international partners or international presence, honestly, I'm lost. I have no words to say to my government because I think this - I mean, to be quite fair and honest, I think it's been an unfair conversation from the international community forced upon my government and my people.
CHANG: Am I hearing then - do you believe the U.S. military should still stay, that this pullout after 20 years is a mistake?
HAMIDI: I don't think the answer to Afghanistan's problem is the continued presence of any international troops, be it American or others. My assessment of the past 20 years is that the international community made some really major mistakes in the decisions that they made, in terms of who they aligned themselves with in Afghanistan. And I remember very vividly and very loudly in my youth days, I was speaking loud and clear and screaming to the international forces, as they aligned themselves with warlords and drug lords, that the results of this relationship are not going to be pretty. And unfortunately, that fear has proven to be true. And 20 years on, with thousands of lives lost, both on the international end as well as the Afghan national end, billions of dollars wasted, we come back to point zero where we began in 2001.
CHANG: If we can just step back for a moment and go back in time, you were educated in the U.S. You returned to Afghanistan in 2003. And I'm wondering, at that time, what was your hope for the future of your country?
HAMIDI: My hope was what America offered me, a young child growing up. I - my family and I immigrated to the U.S. in 1988, when I was about 11 years old. And I went through school, high school, college. I had the freedom of choice. I made the decision myself to not be a medical student and instead focus my studies on humanities because I had a deep interest in women's issues and international issues that affected women. And I thought that by coming to Afghanistan, having brought that experience and having brought whatever knowledge that I had gained in my life as a refugee child outside of Afghanistan, I thought I could give back. And that was really the hope that contained me here.
I initially planned on being in Afghanistan for only one year, but after being here for one year, we Afghans - or anybody who really likes and loves Afghanistan, we always use this notion that this country has some sort of a magnetic force - that once you come here, you're pulled by its natural forces. And so 18 year onwards, I'm still here, obviously in a very different position. And I believe I've done a lot - not only me but everybody who did their best to make the best out of our opportunity or limited opportunity and limited resources that we've had recently. But we were hoping to still have a peaceful and a slowly progressive, prosperous life. And unfortunately, all of those dreams and hopes seem to be ending. And as the situation unfolds itself, holding on to that hope is becoming grimmer and grimmer day by day.
CHANG: Well, before I let you go, Minister, the Taliban seem to be getting closer and closer to Kabul at this point. What is your plan for staying safe right now?
HAMIDI: (Laughter) What do all Afghans, 35 million people, have for staying safe? I had a very heart-to-heart conversation with my husband. And we have the opportunity to flee. So unlike the millions of Afghans who are pretty much stuck here, we're lucky enough to be able to flee. And his response to me was, how are we any better than the 35 million people who have to endure this? And especially when you take leading positions, such as the one that I'm leading right now - close to 270,000 personnel and staff across the country - as their leader, it is not an easy choice to just pack and leave because I can.
CHANG: Rangina Hamidi is the acting minister of education for Afghanistan.
Thank you very much for your time. I hope you and your family do remain safe.
HAMIDI: I hope so, too. And I hope and look forward to potentially having another conversation. And if this is my last one, may the world know that the Afghan people have suffered tremendously. And I hope that the international community and all the great powers that exist can see the reality of how our neighbors are ruining our past, present and future as we speak.
(SOUNDBITE OF INTERPOL SONG, "UNTITLED") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.