Santa Clara County hesitant to open stadium to fans

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Daniel Archuleta, Sports Editor

California Health and Human Services agency released guidelines for fans to attend professional sporting events throughout the state on Tuesday, October 21.

 These guidelines issued by California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly specified that in order for stadiums to reopen, counties must reach enough low infections to get into the orange tier, the second-least restrictive of four. From there, teams can play with up to 20 percent capacity, with additional restrictions such as ticket purchasers having to live within a 120-mile radius and a face-covering mandate.

 Despite the abundance of professional sports that California has, the news was really only relevant to the two teams that play in Santa Clara County: the San Francisco 49ers and the San Jose Earthquakes. Unlike the other counties that hold sporting venues, Santa Clara County is within the orange tier and can possibly move forward with these latest state guidelines.

 The only thing is, they are not.

 Santa Clara County Executive Dr. Jeff Smith did not hold back his objections to the idea of in-person spectators.

 “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 so that the only individuals who’d be put at risk are players, the refs, and their families [who are] getting constant tests,” Smith said. “Putting an audience in a stadium in large groups is just asking for trouble. It’s like a Petri dish.”

In a separate statement, the Public Health Department of Santa Clara wrote: “Audiences at professional sporting events will not be allowed anytime soon in Santa Clara County, and theme parks will not resume operation. We must all continue to prioritize reducing the spread of COVID-19, creating conditions that will allow our businesses, schools, and other organizations to operate safely.”

 Both the 49ers and Earthquakes put out statements thanking Gov. Gavin Newsom and how they look to work with their respective leagues as well as public health officials with the goal of possibly welcoming fans in the near future.

 Depending how one might see it, California is behind other states in terms of allowing fans inside stadiums. This past week the NFL saw 10 games with fans in attendance, ranging from 250 family members at U.S. Bank Stadium for the Minnesota Vikings to 25,000 fans at AT&T Stadium to watch the Dallas Cowboys.

 Given how the Bay Area has been able to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, it is no surprise to see Santa Clara County stay on its path to keeping the public safe.