SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) — California announced new rules for outdoor stadiums Tuesday that allow for some fans to return to the stands while the COVID-19 pandemic rolls on. Sadly for San Francisco 49ers fans, there’s no plans for the county to allow fans at Levi’s Stadium.
The new rules state that stadiums can host 20% of their capacity for sporting events, but only if county that governs the arena is in the orange tier of the state’s COVID reopening plan. To reach that level, the county’s new COVID-19 cases must be around 1 to 4 a day per 100,000 residents.
Fans must live within 120 miles of the stadium to be able to attend events there.
The San Francisco 49ers celebrated the decision, as it means the team is one step closer to having fans in the stands during their 2020 home games.
“Our organization will continue to collaborate with local public health officials to implement a plan that protects the health and wellness of all San Francisco 49ers and Levi’s Stadium employees, patrons and our community,” the San Francisco 49ers tweeted Tuesday.
But after news spread of the rule change, the Santa Clara County Department of Public Health announced that the county had no plans to reopen either sporting stadiums or theme parks.
“We must all continue to prioritize reducing the spread of COVID-19, creating conditions that will allow our businesses, schools, and other community organizations to operate safely,” said a statement from the county’s public health department. “As we see COVID-19 rates rising in states across the U.S., and as we enter the winter months when risk will increase, we cannot take chances with the health and wellbeing of our community and forfeit the many sacrifices that have been made to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
Santa Clara County, where Levi’s Stadium resides, is the only county with a stadium in the orange tier when the rule changes were announced Tuesday. The first county to shut down professional sports when the coronavirus pandemic began, the chance to bring back fans is an opportunity for organizations like the 49ers and the local soccer team, the San Jose Earthquakes, to recuperate the financial losses from the coronavirus shut down.
In a special press conference held Tuesday afternoon, Santa Clara County Executive Jeffrey Smith confirmed the county’s decision to not allow fans at Levi’s Stadium or Stanford, stating that “it makes no sense whatsoever to have audiences at stadiums.”
“The science simply doesn’t support the large congregation of individuals,” Smith said. “All the experts that are respectable predict a spike in November. It’s going to get worse. It’s not the time to be relaxing regulations.”
Smith, a doctor himself, pointed out that the Santa Clara County saw one of the first deaths from COVID-19. The county is no longer a coronavirus hot spot and officials want to keep it that way.
Smith spoke on behalf of the county health officer Dr. Sara Cody, who Smith said trying to contact the state “to convince them that this was a terrible idea.”
“For my perspective, [the state’s decision] not only boggles the mind, it’s unconscionable,” Smith said. “They’re basically putting lives at risk. People at home, not just those who go to the game, are put at risk.”
It’s unclear how other counties will react. Alameda County, which hosts Oakland Coliseum, the home of the Oakland Athletics, stayed silent on the matter after the news broke. The A’s said on Instagram that they looked forward to seeing fans again in 2021.
“The Oakland A’s extend their gratitude to Governor Newsom not only for his leadership through the unchartered waters of a pandemic, but also for his determined approach to creating a framework that allows fans to return to the Oakland Coliseum for the 2021 season,” the team posted on Instagram.
Los Angeles, which hosts several football and baseball teams, still sits in the purple tier, which the state defines as having “widespread” COVID-19 cases — more than seven new cases a day per 100,000 residents.
This story will be updated.