As COVID-19 cases continue to decline across the state, San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond is asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to allow fans to return to Petco Park for the baseball season.
Desmond sent a letter to Newsom's office asking for the governor to allow limited attendance in time for the San Diego Padres opening day, April 1.
"Many other cities and teams have changed the way they operate to keep their fans safe, by limiting areas where they can congregate and making masks mandatory," Desmond wrote. "I'm confident the San Diego Padres organization will do the same. Allowing fans back into Petco Park will bring back thousands of jobs, which have been put on hold and help the businesses in the surrounding area that have been decimated over the last year."
According to information from the park itself, Petco Park has more than 200 full-time and 650 part-time employees. Plus, hundreds of ancillary jobs in the East Village and Gaslamp Quarter are directly related to fans in attendance at the game.
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Supervisor Nathan Fletcher offered his support for the reopening if the numbers back up that decision.
"We are making progress as case numbers go down and the number of vaccines given go up," he said. "I have been in ongoing conversations with the Padres and Governor Newsom and am hopeful that by opening day we are in a position to have some fans safely in the stands rooting for the Friars."
Desmond cites a recent study published by medRxiv which looked at the impact of having fans in the stadiums for NFL and college football games. The purpose was to identify whether or not limited in-person attendance caused spread of the coronavirus.
"(We) did not find an increase in COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the counties where NFL and NCAA games were held with in-person attendance," the study reads. "Our study suggests that NFL and NCAA football games hosted with limited in-person attendance do not cause a significant increase in local COVID-19 cases."
Desmond points to the 22,000 fans allowed at the Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida on Feb. 7 and declining case rates in Tampa's Hillsborough County since then. This is true, and cases in the county have declined since Dec. 31, when a record 1,569 new infections were reported.
However, as of Wednesday, the county reported 559 new COVID-19 infections. For comparison, San Diego County, which has 2 million more people, reported 658 cases Wednesday.
Desmond believes there is a safe way to reopen and that reward outweighs risk.
"We both want to protect our community and keep people safe and we both know the mental health impacts the past 11 months have had on Californians," he said. "Allowing a small number of San Diegans to attend Padres games would be a major step in getting back to normal. I know you want to make decisions based on science and the science is clear that, when done safely, fans should be allowed to attend games."
It's likely to fall on deaf ears. According the state's four-tiered reopening plan, live sporting events with fans in attendance are one of the last things to resume, along with concerts and convention centers.
For those to resume, San Diego County would have to fall into the
"Yellow Tier," or reporting fewer than 1 new daily case per 100,000 people and a positive testing rate of below 2%. As of Tuesday, the county is reporting an adjusted 15 cases per 100,000 and a 5% positivity rate.
The Padres begin spring training in Arizona on Sunday. They welcome the Arizona Diamondbacks to Petco Park on April 1 for the team's home opener.