After a lot of what’s felt like shouting into the void about how the pandemic is not only still here, but worse and more widespread than it was in March, and how stupid it is to keep doing sports in this environment, it’s good to see that somebody with the ability to do something about it … finally is.
As part of its new package of restrictions intended to stop the spread of COVID-19, Santa Clara County, Cali., announced on Saturday that “All recreational activities that involve physical content or close proximity to persons outside one’s household, including all contact sports, will be temporarily prohibited. People can continue to engage in outdoor athletics and recreation where social distancing can be maintained at all times.”
The 49ers call Santa Clara County home, and after their game on Sunday against the Rams in Los Angeles, they will return to a place where they are not allowed to practice or play their next two games, scheduled home dates against the Bills next Monday night, and against the Washington Football Team on Dec. 13.
That is, if the 49ers can legally return to Santa Clara County at all, because another part of that official announcements that “The Health Officer is also issuing a Mandatory Directive on Travel, which strongly discourages leisure and non-essential travel, and requires persons entering the county to quarantine for 14 days upon return from travel of more than 150 miles.”
Santa Clara is about 350 miles northwest of Los Angeles, so even practicing and holding games in a nearby county (Alameda, perhaps? The Raiders left a nice, empty stadium there…) would still mean that anyone who lives in Santa Clara County would have to break quarantine to go work at a job that is shuttered by law where they live.
As for the idea that the 49ers might be able to get an exemption? Well, you may remember March, when state officials in California recommended sporting events be called off, and the other team in Santa Clara County, the San Jose Sharks, ignored the guideline to play three more home games … helping lead to COVID outbreaks among the Ottawa Senators and Colorado Avalanche. The leaders in Santa Clara County surely remember this, too.
So long as sports — or any capitalist enterprise — is allowed to continue, they’ll continue to the greatest extent that they can. There’s no sense of greater responsibility, only the television contracts that must be fulfilled and the money that must be made. Everyone played along in the spring and summer, but now it’s up to local governments to step in and say no, this is not essential, we’re dealing with a deadly and highly contagious virus, playtime is over.
That’s why the Blue Jays played their season in Buffalo, and why the Raptors are headed to Tampa Bay — because Canada, even with its own problems containing the virus, recognized the danger and stupidity of having pro sports teams coming in and out with all their germs in tow in the middle of all this.
We had our chance over the past eight months to get this thing under control. We blew it. It’s time to shut sports down again, and finally Santa Clara County has stepped up to lead the way.