California officials have opened the door to allowing fans to attend sporting events and theme parks, but so far it doesn’t appear any counties are planning to allow those major venues to reopen.
On Tuesday, California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly issued rules allowing venues to reopen to the public in counties that are in the second-least-restrictive tier in terms of virus rates, according to Politico.
State rules cap attendance at 20 percent of capacity and require face coverings. The rules also limit attendance to people who live within 120 miles of the venue.
Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara County, which is in the so-called orange tier, could be eligible to reopen to the public under those rules. The NFL’s San Francisco 49ers play their home games there. The team’s most recent game at Levi’s was a 24-16 win over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
But the stadium will remain closed to fans for the foreseeable future because county officials want it that way.
“It makes no sense whatsoever to have audiences at stadiums, particularly when there is a model to do it without audiences in a much safer way,” County Executive Jeff Smith said at a news briefing Tuesday.
“Putting an audience in a stadium in large groups is just asking for trouble. It’s like a petri dish.”
Some Santa Clara County supervisors pushed back.
“For seven months, we have asked for extraordinary sacrifice from our local residents and businesses,” Supervisor Susan Ellenberg said Wednesday, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
“I believe we owe them in exchange — at a minimum — transparency in the decision-making processes and a commitment to collaboration in working through how we can contain the virus, while recognizing the ancillary harms that result from prolonged shutdowns.”
Supervisor Mike Wasserman said allowing a limited stadium crowd is no riskier than the current rules permitting outdoor dining.
“When I see a couple of couples sitting at a table or three couples sitting at a table, any one them could be asymptomatic,” he said.
“They’re sitting across each other for at least an hour, they don’t have a mask on, so the risk of infection right there is as high as it can possibly get. But we allow that.”
Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody rejected any reopening plans.
“It’s in my judgment not safe for our community, especially now when we still have so many businesses and so many activities that have not been able to resume,” Cody told county board members Tuesday, according to the Mercury News. “We’re staring down what could be a really rugged winter.”
She noted that under state rules, 13,000 people could attend a 49ers game.
“Even if you sort of conservatively run those numbers, you are going to have a couple hundred infected people coming into a stadium together,” Cody said. “It’s simply not safe to gather fans together.”
California also is allowing smaller theme parks and amusement parks to reopen in counties with lower infection rates, but not Disneyland or other large attractions. The justification was that small parks had local or regional audiences, but larger ones draw from all over the world.
Ken Potrock, president of Disneyland Resort, issued a statement in reply.
“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,” Potrock said.
“Nevertheless, the State of California continues to ignore this fact, instead mandating arbitrary guidelines that it knows are unworkable and that hold us to a standard vastly different from other reopened businesses and state-operated facilities.”
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