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New Washington state Covid-19 restrictions won’t affect Sounders

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Games can still be played, but still without fans.

San Jose Earthquakes v Seattle Sounders FC Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

It was one step back for Washingtonians Sunday morning, as Governor Jay Inslee announced a series of new restrictions in the wake of the spike in Covid-19 cases in the state and around the country over the last several weeks. However, the Seattle Sounders will continue moving forward, as MLS hopes to complete the 2020 playoffs.

That said, given the unpredictability of the disease, nothing is guaranteed.

Inslee’s announcement placed significant restrictions on public gatherings — particularly aimed at indoor activities — that go into effect Monday. Indoor gatherings with persons outside of the household are prohibited, and bars and restaurants will not be allowed to have indoor service for at least the next month. There were no new restrictions on outdoor sporting events

“This spike puts us in a more dangerous a position that we were in March,” Inslee said during the Sunday press conference. “And it means, unfortunately, the time has come to reinstate restrictions on activities statewide to preserve the public’s well-being, and to save lives. These were very difficult decisions that have very real consequences to people’s livelihoods. I recognize that and don’t take those impacts lightly, but we must act now and act quickly to slow the spread of this disease.”

Additionally, indoor service will be closed at fitness facilities and gyms, and youth and adult amateur sporting activities are limited to outdoors-only with facial coverings. Bowling alleys, museums, zoos, aquariums, and movie theaters will be closed for indoor services.

MLS — and other professional leagues — are to this point not affected by the new restrictions. A Sounders spokesperson said the team had been fully briefed on the changes. As it pertains to games in Seattle, because fans are currently not allowed in stadiums and attendance is limited to essential personnel, the new restrictions by-and-large do not change the team or league operations.

However, in the lead-up to these new restrictions, Inslee also announced new travel restrictions for persons coming in and out of the state. Those persons traveling for non-essential business are required to self-quarantine for 14 days. The restrictions will not apparently affect the Sounders, as travel for work remains allowed.

A Sounders spokesperson said the team is comfortable that they will continue to be able to conduct business as they have for several major reasons:

  • Heightened testing: Because the testing protocols are so stringent in professional sports, the Sounders believe that they will not be affected by the new travel restrictions. Currently, the Sounders are subject to testing the day prior to leaving, when they get on the plane to travel, when they return and once they are back.
  • Traveling group is limited: The travel group is comprised of essential staff, including players, technical staff and support staff (including medical and communications), which number approximately 30-35 people. Since play resumed over the summer, none of the broadcast crew travels to out of state matches and have been calling games off a monitor. The traveling group — considered “Tier 1” — is subject to more restrictions than the general public in their daily activities. Additionally, regional authorities overseeing the response to the pandemic are apprised by the team and league of the activities of this group. That combined with the enhanced testing will, in theory, allow the Sounders to continue to conduct their normal activities.
  • Current testing and hygiene protocols by college and professional teams have largely hit the mark. In his press conference, Inslee indicated he was satisfied with how college and professional teams have administered their testing, isolation and hygiene protocols, and thus has confidence that those organizations should be able to continue to act responsibly, and continue to play.

“Should” is the operative word, because the Sounders are allowed to operate only with the blessing of those state and regional authorities, and that blessing is subject to revocation as facts — and positive tests — change. As of Nov. 15, daily cases had increased to 2,309, a more than 50% increase from Nov. 3. A similar spike over the next several weeks could mean even more severe restrictions that affect sports leagues.

But for now, the show will go on.