Just as the proverbial s**t was hitting the fan last week with COVID numbers statewide, the Golden State Warriors unveiled a proposal to bring 9,000 fans indoors to watch basketball this winter. Not shockingly, San Francisco's Department of Public Health has balked at this idea.
The proposal to open the NBA season in December with rapid-testing of Warriors fans and 50-percent capacity in the Chase Center was perhaps dreamed up in the relatively optimistic month of October when local COVID metrics seemed stable. And even the Warriors brass quickly walked back the proposal after it was publicized last week, saying, "We will continue to work with local and state officials and hope to activate this plan when the timing is right."
Dubbed "Operation Dub Nation," the plan involved aggressive testing of all employees at the arena, in addition to checking for fans' tests upon arrival (from within 48 hours) and administering rapid test. Warriors owner Joe Lacob had offered to foot the $30 million bill for what would be the first-in-the-nation sports arena to open at such a capacity.
Now, as KPIX reports, three days after San Francisco slipped back from the state's least restrictive "Yellow" tier to the "Red" tier due to rising COVID cases, the public health department issued a formal rejection of the proposal saying, "In the present circumstances, bringing thousands of individuals (and households) together – many of whom would travel and return from other counties – creates too much risk of widespread transmission in transit and while visiting San Francisco."
Experts have been downplaying precautionary testing — in particular rapid testing — in recent weeks as a strategy for mitigating risk at gatherings large and small. White House staffers and the President were being tested daily when an outbreak occurred there, and more aides and staffers have continued to be infected in the weeks since. And Elon Musk showed the unreliability of rapid antigen tests last week when he claimed on Twitter to have gotten two negative and two positive results all in the same 24-hour period.
"To get back to large gatherings, we’re going to need testing but we’re going to need a lot more,” said Stanford infectious disease specialist Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, speaking to KPIX. And she said there would likely need to be vaccine deployment and continued masking and social-distancing to make it work.
The Warriors issued a statement in response to the SF Dept. of Public Health decision, saying, "We believe the thorough, detailed and adaptive re-opening plans we’ve been developing over the last eight months will help us accomplish our goal of welcoming our fans and staff back to Chase Center when the time is right."