Unlike Italy, where sports and public health officials have banned spectators from all stadiums during matches until April 15 due to a more serious outbreak of novel coronavirus, the Seattle Sounders will carry on with a 7 p.m. Saturday match at the Clink against the Columbus Crew, based on updated guidelines from Seattle and King County health officials.
The game is the first major sports event in the region since COVID-19, the disease from coronavirus, began killing and sickening more people here than anywhere else in the U.S. As of Thursday evening, 11 deaths in King County have been attributed to the illness, with 70 confirmed cases — 33 percent of all cases nationally.
The club acknowledged that the county reported a part-time stadium employee, a concessions vendor who worked an XFL game Feb. 22 had a confirmed case, but the employee has not worked a Sounders game.
“The club is following the regional health authority’s determination that risk to stadium attendees from that employee was low and that no additional precautions are necessary heading into Saturday’s match,” the club said in a statement Thursday afternoon. The statement asked that any at-risk members of the community on the county list refrain from attending.
The club said it has expanded sanitation procedures including enhanced cleaning treatments to disinfect all areas of the stadium before and after every event, and increasing the number of hand-sanitizer stations.
Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday that, if risks increase, he would consider invoking his authority to shut down public gatherings. Thursday, he made no mention of that, joining Vice President Mike Pence at a press conference at Camp Murray on the grounds of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Pierce County to reassure the public.
Pence said the state is on the “front lines of the coronavirus and the people of Washington state should be proud of their state and local leadership, your health care leadership and first responders.”
Said Inslee: “I think we have a good partnership between the state of Washington and the federal government. I’m very appreciative of (Pence) being here in such short order.”
Photo ops aside, other sports teams have turned down trips to Seattle this week. Western Athletic Conference men’s and women’s basketball teams from Chicago State and Missouri-Kansas City declined to play scheduled regular-season games this week against Seattle U.
Columbus Crew coach Caleb Porter told reporters Thursday before departure that the team is making specific decisions to stay safe.
“Everybody is aware of what is happening there,” he said. “We’ve had conversations with them about it, and at the end of the day, the game is on as planned. We’ll be traveling there and we have to have the mindset that we’re going to play.
“Of course, you do little things like hand sanitizer and probably won’t leave the hotel (and) some of those adjustments, but futbol goes on.”