Coronavirus: Contact sports ban leaves SF 49ers, other teams in limbo

The San Francisco 49ers and several other Bay Area teams are now road warriors.

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Santa Clara County, where the 49ers play their home games, issued enhanced COVID-19 guidelines for professional, collegiate and youth sports on Saturday afternoon. The mandate prohibits contact sports until Dec. 21, SFGate.com reported. The order goes into effect on Monday and includes a 14-day quarantine for anyone traveling to Santa Clara County from more than 150 miles away, according to ESPN.

The order directly affects the 49ers, who have home games scheduled on Dec. 7 against the Buffalo Bills and Dec. 13 against the Washington Football Team. Under the county guidelines, the 49ers are prohibited from playing at Levi’s Stadium and cannot hold practices in the area.

“This pandemic is like a high-speed train, and our projections tell us that we are on target to derail by around the third week of December if we don’t apply brakes right now with all our collective might,” Santa Clara County Health Officer Sara Cody said at a news conference Saturday afternoon.

In a statement released earlier Saturday, Cody said she was “gravely concerned” with the spike of coronavirus cases in the county.

“The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in our county has doubled in just the past couple of weeks, and we are at risk of exceeding our hospital capacity very soon if current trends continue,” Cody said.

The county reported a record number of 760 cases on Saturday, KGO-TV reported. Another 239 people remain hospitalized, a number that had doubled since Nov. 12, according to Cody.

“All recreational activities that involve physical contact or close proximity to persons outside one’s household, including all contact sports, will be temporarily prohibited,” the order states. “People can continue to engage in outdoor athletics and recreation where social distancing can be maintained at all times.”

In a news conference Saturday, James Williams, counsel for Santa Clara County, emphasized that nobody was exempt from the order.

“(This) will temporarily suspend activities that require direct physical contact or interaction in Santa Clara,” Williams told reporters. “So, that means that for those teams, they will not be able to play games or have practices where they have direct contact within the county.”

“We are aware of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department’s emergency directive,” the 49ers said in a statement. “We are working with the NFL and our partners on operational plans and will share details as they are confirmed.”

Other teams affected by the guidelines include the basketball programs at Stanford University and San Jose State University. Stanford has a home football game scheduled for Dec. 12, while San Jose State has home games set for Dec. 5 and Dec. 12, ESPN reported.

The NHL’s San Jose Sharks also play in Santa Clara County.

Stanford said in a statement that they are aware of the announcement and remain “in close communication with university and county officials at this time on appropriate next steps.”

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