Hours before the NFL revealed its 2020 schedule Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom expressed doubt that games would be played in California.
“It’s difficult to imagine a stadium that’s filled until we have immunity and until we have a vaccine,” Newsom said. “There are conditions that persist in this state and this nation that make re-opening very, very challenging.”
Newsom announced California will move into the second phase of a four-step process to full reopening, which allows retail stores to open with curbside service if they meet certain safety requirements. The state won’t move into the final phase of Newsom’s plan, which includes the reopening of sporting events to fans, until immunity to COVID-19 has increased and a vaccine is widely available.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said last week that the United States could have a viable coronavirus vaccine by January.
Despite political and economical pressure, Newsom has said repeatedly his four-step plan is guided by science. The next phase, with the opening of higher-risk businesses like hair salons, gyms and dine-in restaurants, could be months away. Phase four would end all restrictions and allow for large gatherings at concerts and sporting events.
Meanwhile, professional sports leagues are working on ways to prepare for their eventual reopening.
The NBA recently permitted teams to reopen practice facilities for voluntary, social-distance workouts in areas where it has been allowed by local public health officials. The NBA postponed its season indefinitely after a player tested positive for the coronavirus on March 11.
Along with teams in Portland, Denver and Cleveland, the Sacramento Kings announced they would open their practice facility on Monday. The Golden State Warriors, whose Chase Center headquarters are in San Francisco, and Los Angeles Lakers are in no rush to return.
According to ESPN, Major League Baseball expects to offer a return-to-play proposal to the players association in the next few days that includes players beginning training in June and starting the season, which has so far been delayed six weeks, in July.
However, even if health officials deem it safe for fans to attend live sporting events, Newsom wonders how those sports can continue if players continue to test positive for the virus.
“It’s difficult for me to imagine what the league and, broadly, leagues, do when one or two of their key personnel or players have tested positive,” Newsom said. “Do they quarantine the rest of the team? If an offensive lineman is practicing with a defensive lineman, and they have tested positive, what happens to the rest of the line? What happens to the game coming up the next weekend?
“It’s inconceivable to me that that’s not a likely scenario.”
Newsom’s administration is tracking six indicators to determine when to ease restrictions. They include the state’s ability to test people for the coronavirus and hospitals’ abilities to handle a potential surge of new cases after the state’s reopening.
For sports leagues to function, they will also need access to tests and, possibly, vaccines. The NBA estimates it needs at least 15,000 test kits in order to safely resume play, but commissioner Adam Silver has stated he isn’t comfortable using a high volume of tests while they are still publicly in high demand.
Newsom, a noted sports fan, has been in contact with officials from several leagues.
“It’s very fluid, and it should be,” Newsom said. “They should be very, very sensitive to the needs of the community.”
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Author: Wes Goldberg