Although Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has urged people to voluntarily not attend large gatherings like sporting events in order to counter the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), King County health officials on Thursday announced that scheduled matches will go forward for the time being. That includes the Seattle Sounders-Columbus Crew match on Saturday.
“As an added measure of safety in accordance with the new guidelines from Public Health – Seattle & King County, [we are] advising that the listed at-risk members of the community, or any individual who is currently sick, refrain from attending games or matches in the near future, until or unless the guidance from public health authorities changes,” the King County statement read.
The statement also shared that a part-time stadium employee at the Seattle Dragons’ match on Feb. 22 tested positive for coronavirus, but called the risk to attendees low and advised that no further precautions were needed for anyone who simply attended the match. That employee did not work either of the Sounders’ since then, according to a statement from the team.
Inslee’s statement, while not quite contrasting, urged seemingly more extreme caution.
“We think people should give serious consideration about whether or not they go to non-essential congregations of people that are not necessary for their well-being or their family’s health or economic well-being,” he said. “Even if you are perfectly healthy, even if you wouldn’t mind having mild symptoms, you could still transmit the disease if you don’t know you have it. This is not an order but it is an encouragement for people to think about our responsibilities to the community.”
The Sounders statement said there would be “expanded sanitation procedures” that would include enhanced cleaning of the stadium before and after the game, as well as an increased number of hand sanitizer stations throughout CenturyLink Field and educating stadium employees.
A Sounders spokesperson suggested postponing the match was considered, but that playing in front of an empty stadium was never a particularly likely scenario.
Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said he’s been kept apprised of the situation as it was developing.
“There’s no reason to panic and get all nervous, but it is serious,” Schmetzer said following Thursday’s training session. “You try to balance that. Take good care of yourself, wash your hands, don’t touch your face. If you feel sick, you have to let our doctors know. We have a very competent medical team that’s all over this. I’m not concerned about our group having a panic attack or getting bad messaging.”
With the understanding that some will not be able to attend or might simply feel uncomfortable, a Sounders official said the team will make accommodations and urged ticket holders to contact their customer service or ticket representatives about options.