California will let fans back in outdoor stadiums for pro sporting events in counties with low coronavirus infection rates but isn’t ready to allow Disneyland and other major theme parks to reopen, the state’s top health official said Tuesday.
San Francisco and neighboring Alameda and Santa Clara are the only counties that meet the threshold for pro sports. However, immediately after the announcement officials in Santa Clara, home to the San Francisco 49ers, issued a statement saying they weren’t prepared to allow even a limited number of fans into Levi’s Stadium.
Major theme parks, on the other hand, strongly objected to the state’s restrictions, saying they could safely operate even with thousands of people in attendance.
As many as 14,000 people could attend Levi’s Stadium events under the state’s guidance, setting up the chance of devastating “superspreader” events, said Dr. Jeff Smith, Santa Clara County’s executive officer.
“It’s a matter of reasonable scientific decision-making instead of political decision-making,” Smith told reporters. “Putting an audience in a stadium in large groups is just asking for trouble. It’s like a petri dish.”
Being outdoors isn’t enough to guarantee the virus won’t spread, he said, because fans would be using the same restrooms and same doors to enter and leave the stadium, while screaming and yelling during the game.
The 49ers said the team welcomed the news from the state but “will continue to collaborate with local public health officials to implement a plan that ensures a plan that protects the health and wellness” of the team, its employees and the public. Many NFL teams in other states have been playing games with fans in the stands.
Under the state rules, pro sports teams could have limited capacity at outdoor stadiums if they are in a county in the lowest two levels of the state’s four-tiered model for reopening. Only fans who live within a 120-mile radius may buy tickets.
No county in Southern California has reached those tiers, so fans of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Chargers are still on the sidelines.
Major theme parks weren’t happy that the state is limiting re-openings. Places like Disneyland and Universal Studios won’t be allowed to reopen until their home counties reach the lowest tier, which has high hurdles including a sustained infection positivity rate under 2%.
Smaller venues will be allowed to open when their home counties are in the “moderate” category, but only with 500 patrons or at 25% of capacity, whichever is smaller, and only the outdoor attractions. Tickets must be sold in advance and restricted to residents of that county.
“We have proven that we can responsibly reopen, with science-based health and safety protocols strictly enforced at our theme park properties around the world,” Disneyland Resort president Ken Potrock said in a statement.
“This plan prolongs unemployment for tens of thousands of people, hastens bankruptcy for families and small business owners…