As Jimmy Garoppolo walked off the field Sunday following a 24-16 win against the Los Angeles Rams, he stopped for a moment to wave at the paper cutouts in the empty bleachers, taking a second to lament the missing ‘Faithful’. However, it is still going to be a while before any 49ers fan sets foot in Levi’s Stadium.
With new guidelines announced Tuesday by California’s Health and Human Services for fans to attend in-person professional sporting events in outdoor stadiums, 49er stans were hopeful they may in fact get to enjoy a return to Levi’s Stadium this season. This dream was fleeting, however, as the Santa Clara County public health department made a statement shortly thereafter, declaring every intention of keeping Levi’s locked down.
"Audiences at professional sporting events will not be allowed anytime soon in Santa Clara County, and theme parks will not resume operation," the county public health department said in a statement. "We must all continue to prioritize reducing the spread of COVID-19, creating conditions that will allow our businesses, schools, and other community organizations to operate safely. As we see COVID-19 rates rising in states across the U.S., and as we enter the winter months when risk will increase, we cannot take chances with the health and wellbeing of our community and forfeit the many sacrifices that have been made to slow the spread of COVID-19."
The state guidelines, announced Tuesday by California’s Health and Human Services secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, outline the means in which professional sporting events in outdoor stadiums could resume in California, as long as the counties are in Tier 3 (Moderate/Orange) or Tier 4 (Minimal, Yellow). Orange-tier counties like Santa Clara can have 20% capacity at these outdoor stadiums, while Yellow tier counties are allowed 25% capacity.
BREAKING: Professional sporting events in California can open up to fans in outdoor stadiums when a county reaches the Orange-Moderate tier. pic.twitter.com/39vYz8JYXD— Ashley Zavala (@ZavalaA) October 20, 2020
Levi’s Stadium and the 49ers practice facility are both located in Santa Clara County, currently designated “moderate” for the range of Covid-19 spread, which would theoretically allow the 49ers to admit nearly 13,000 fans at 20% capacity. The next home game for the 49ers is not until a Thursday night primetime matchup with the Green Bay Packers on November 5th.
San Francisco on Tuesday became the first Bay Area county to enter the yellow tier, and city officials announced the intention to begin loosening more restrictions on Election Day, November 3. Like Santa Clara's, SF's health department has remained more conservative in its restrictions than what the state has permitted, and the plan has so far proven successful in lowering viral spread to "minimal" levels.
The 49ers released a statement of their own Tuesday via Twitter, thanking Gavin Newsom for his “leadership” and “thoughtful approach”, however the team plans to work with county officials to ensure they open the stadium back up to fans safely.
For anyone still holding on to hope, there may be some yet. With over two weeks until the next home game, there is adequate time for the 49ers organization to try and come up with a plan to host some fans in the stadium that is both safe, secure, and adheres to all Santa Clara County health and safety guidelines.
And if it’s any consolation, the Niners players and organization are desperate to have the fans back.
"As far as saying 'We miss you' to the Faithful, we really do miss you guys out there, man," Garoppolo told reporters shortly after waving to the paper cutouts following Sunday’s game. "It's different without fans. It's tough, but we're making the best of the situation, but just, Faithful, know that we miss you guys out there."