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49ers banned from welcoming fans despite easing of California restrictions

San Francisco 49ers fans remain banned from Levi’s Stadium despite state officials in California lifting restrictions on attendance.

Santa Clara – which is home to the NFL team – and two other counties have been cleared to allow fans to attend professional sports fixtures due to low COVID-19 infection rates. However, local officials in Santa Clare issued a statement saying they were not prepared to allow even a limited number of fans into Levi’s Stadium.

The state guidance would permit as many as 14,000 fans at the 68,500-capacity venue, but Dr. Jeff Smith, Santa Clara County’s executive officer, said this sets up the possibility of creating “superspreader” events.

“It’s a matter of reasonable scientific decision-making instead of political decision-making,” Smith said, according to the Associated Press news agency. “Putting an audience in a stadium in large groups is just asking for trouble. It’s like a petri dish.”

Under the state’s rules, teams can have limited capacity at outdoor stadia if they are based in a county in the lowest two levels of California’s four-tier model for reopening.

The guidelines state that teams there can play with up to 25 per cent capacity, with additional restrictions such as ticket purchasers having to live within a 120-mile radius and a face-covering mandate.

Following the announcement, the 49ers said: “We appreciate Governor (Gavin) Newsom’s leadership and thoughtful approach in creating a framework that allows for a return of fans to Levi’s Stadium, and restart the economic activity of the region. We welcome our fans and their support of local businesses and vendors that are critical to our local economy, especially during these difficult times.

“Our organisation 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.”

No county in Southern California has met the new state thresholds meaning that the new SoFi Stadium remains out of bounds for fans of the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers.

California this year allowed professional sports to occur behind closed doors, which included hosting part of the Major League Baseball playoff bubble this month in Southern California.

Meanwhile, California also released rules for reopening theme parks that allows smaller venues to reopen in counties with lower rates of infection. The move brings no immediate relief to Disneyland or other major Southern California attractions.

Smaller venues will be allowed to open when their home counties are in the “moderate” category, but only with 500 patrons or at 25 per cent of capacity, whichever is smaller, and only the outdoor attractions. Tickets must be sold in advance and restricted to residents of that county.

Ken Potrock, president of Disneyland Resort, was dissatisfied with the latest announcement. The resort took the unusual step of issuing a statement with quotes from Orange County Public Health Officer Clayton Chau, who said the county would likely not reach the yellow tier until next summer and that it could depend on a vaccine.

Potrock said in a statement: “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.

“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.”

In addition, Disney chief Bob Iger recently resigned from Newsom’s reopening task force out of frustration with the governor’s theme park prohibition. The company’s Disney World Resort has reopened in Florida.

Image: Jim Bahn / Attribution 2.0 Generic / Edited for size