The San Francisco 49ers have not held a game at Levi’s Stadium since mid-March, 2020, but the NFL team’s top brass hopes to change that by convening top physicians from UCSF and beyond to recommend a plan for fans to reconvene at the Santa Clara stadium.
Among those medical experts are Dr. Robert Wachter, who chairs UCSF’s Department of Medicine and has become known for his prolific Twitter threads about the coronavirus during the pandemic; Drs. Monica Gandhi and Lillian Brown who both work in the HIV, Infectious Diseases, and Global Medicine Division at UCSF and San Francisco General Hospital; and CommonSpirit Health CEO Lloyd Dean.
Brown says the 49ers, and the work that comes out of the advisory committee the team has assembled, could be a model to sports teams across the U.S
“The more groups that operate under public health best practices, the better,” she said. “Our aim is to produce important insights and determine protocols that can be used as standards for stadiums across the country.”
In-person spectating for professional sports in the Bay Area stopped March 16, 2020, when Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody issued the first shelter-in-place. Since then, the 49ers have held two of their “home games” at the State Farm Stadium in Arizona and at least seven players—including wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk, Kendrick Bourne and Deebo Samuel; linemen Arik Armstead, Hroniss Grasu and Trent Williams; and linebacker Joe Walker—were quarantined due to coronavirus concerns last year.
Today, Levi’s Stadium serves as California’s largest mass vaccination site, but there’s no indication yet when the stadium will make the shift from public health arena to sports stadium. But 49ers president Al Guido said using the stadium as a mass vaccination site was critical to ensuring fans’ safe return.
“We want to set the standard for safety,” Guido said. “The members of this committee have spent the past 12 months on the frontlines of the COVID response and we look forward to leveraging the depth of their experience.”
Santa Clara County has seen a decline in COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations. Cody said in a news release that the county could soon move into the “Red Tier,” a COVID-19 case status designated by the state that is less restrictive than the current “Purple Tier.” The county recently announced guidelines for indoor and outdoor youth and recreational sports, though collegiate and professional sports—where more vendors, security and other employees are needed to operate facilities—remain prohibited.
“I’m looking forward to working with the 49ers on these important issues,” Gandhi said. “We’ll need to make sure the return of fans not only protects the fans but is safe for everyone involved—including the employees of Levi’s Stadium and the local community.”
Despite the Covid-related scares, deaths and a response that came with an overhaul of most peoples’ way of life over the last year, Wachter says it’s only a matter of time before people will push to start gathering for in-person events, including live sports in stadiums both open-air and enclosed.
“It’s important that the way we do so is guided by science,” Wachter said. “It’s great to see Bay Area organizations like the 49ers taking the science seriously.”
Readers should be keenly aware that the San Francisco 49ers organization is a relatively large, profit-driven entity whose leadership massively intervened in Santa Clara’s municipal elections in November 2020 to successfully oust council members who would not kowtow to the 49ers owner, Jed York (see my comments under https://sanjosespotlight.com/santa-clara-council-candidates-49ers-police-union-point-fingers-over-campaign-donations/ and https://www.mercurynews.com/?returnUrl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mercurynews.com%2F2020%2F10%2F25%2Fopinion-santa-clara%2F%3FclearUserState%3Dtrue).
York has a vested interest in getting maximum use of the stadium as soon as possible and has the financial resources and, now, a majority of supporters on the Santa Clara City Council. This means that the 49er organization will be exerting pressure to get the stadium back to normal operations sooner rather than later. As such, there are clear and present material and institutional dangers to public health here and residents should be on guard.
The profit motive poses a direct threat to public health in so many ways, not least of which is pushing for normalization while the coronavirus has still not been contained and is still generating new mutant variations. This is one of the clearest, most compelling examples of the conflict between public and private interests that has potentially large negative health impacts on the County’s residents. (It is instructive to pay attention to the posturing and positions of compromised public leaders who push the big business party line on this issue.)
Readers who are interested in a fuller explanation of the profit system and its perils can refer to: https://www.sanjoseinside.com/news/santa-clara-co-to-probe-covid-related-workplace-safety/#comment-1692359
As long as sports teams insist on mixing sports with virtue signaling, I’ll stay home and tune out.
They still hit your credit card every month if you are a season ticket holder. paying for tickets we didn’t use last year and tickets for games we might not see this year…. that was total scam they pulled getting this stadium loaded off on the south bay
Sure was a scam and the bumpkin voters of Santa Clara (“maybe I can go to a game”) swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.