BY Art Thiel 09:27PM 03/05/2020

Coronavirus won’t stop Sounders game Saturday

The risk is low, according to city and county health officials, so the Sounders’ game against the Columbus Crew at 7 p.m. Saturday will go on as planned at the Clink.

Despite public-health worries, Sounders fans will be allowed to gather at the Clink Saturday. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Unlike Italy, where sports and public health officials have banned spectators from all stadiums during matches until April 15 due to a more serious outbreak of novel coronavirus, the Seattle Sounders will carry on with a 7 p.m. Saturday match at the Clink against the Columbus Crew, based on updated guidelines from Seattle and King County health officials.

The game is the first major sports event in the region since COVID-19, the disease from coronavirus, began killing and sickening more people here than anywhere else in the U.S. As of Thursday evening, 11 deaths in King County have been attributed to the illness, with 70 confirmed cases — 33 percent of all cases nationally.

The club acknowledged that the county reported a part-time stadium employee, a concessions vendor who worked an XFL game Feb. 22 had a confirmed case, but the employee has not worked a Sounders game.

“The club is following the regional health authority’s determination that risk to stadium attendees from that employee was low and that no additional precautions are necessary heading into Saturday’s match,” the club said in a statement Thursday afternoon. The statement asked that any at-risk members of the community on the county list refrain from attending.

The club said it has expanded sanitation procedures including enhanced cleaning treatments to disinfect all areas of the stadium before and after every event, and increasing the number of hand-sanitizer stations.

Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday that, if risks increase, he would consider invoking his authority to shut down public gatherings. Thursday, he made no mention of that, joining Vice President Mike Pence at a press conference at Camp Murray on the grounds of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Pierce County to reassure the public.

Pence said the state is on the “front lines of the coronavirus and the people of Washington state should be proud of their state and local leadership, your health care leadership and first responders.”

Said Inslee: “I think we have a good partnership between the state of Washington and the federal government. I’m very appreciative of (Pence) being here in such short order.”

Photo ops aside, other sports teams have turned down trips to Seattle this week. Western Athletic Conference men’s and women’s basketball teams from Chicago State and Missouri-Kansas City declined to play scheduled regular-season games this week against Seattle U.

Columbus Crew coach Caleb Porter told reporters Thursday before departure that the team is making specific decisions to stay safe.

“Everybody is aware of what is happening there,” he said. “We’ve had conversations with them about it, and at the end of the day, the game is on as planned. We’ll be traveling there and we have to have the mindset that we’re going to play.

“Of course, you do little things like hand sanitizer and probably won’t leave the hotel (and) some of those adjustments, but futbol goes on.”



  • Kirkland

    They just postponed next weekend’s Emerald City Comic-Con, which usually gets 100,000 people over four days. I have heard of something called the “comic-con crud”, where colds and sniffles tend to spread on the gigantic conventions like San Diego, but COVID-19 is more serious, even in a much smaller con like ours. No issues whatsoever about being safe than sorry. (I did purchase autographs from scheduled guests LeVar Burton, Walter “Chekhov” Koenig of “Star Trek” and Karen Gillan of “Doctor Who” and “Jumanji”, hope they can make it at the rescheduled con this summer.)

    Serious question: Is the CLink being outdoors a factor in how far viruses spread, compared to indoor events like the Comic-Con and college hoops games? I honestly know little about germ science.

    • art thiel

      From what I have read, outdoor air circulation lowers the risk of transmission. Indoor events are a greater risk. The amount of difference is less clear, but I think the NCAA tourney, NHL and NBA are in for disruption as the outbreak grows.

  • ballerPNW

    This is willful ignorance of Sounders management and a disgrace.

    On 3/5, King county published that “Public Health urges residents to follow these recommendations: If you can feasibly avoid bringing large groups of people together, consider postponing events and gatherings.”

    In the interest of not losing money and refund fans’ tickets, Sounders is transferring the financial burden of spreading COVID-19 to the public health system.

    • Husky73

      Fans have the choice– attend or not. I probably wouldn’t go.

      • art thiel

        We still have our choices. That option may not last.

    • art thiel

      The decision is not based on ignorance. They and all Seattle teams have committed time and resources to understand the risk, and take direction from public health officials and government. If officials had told the Sounders to admit no fans, the team would have done so.

      That directive held through Saturday. Today and tomorrow and next week may be different.

      • ballerPNW

        Art, I appreciate your response. I wish the Sounders could be as forthright and keep fans clearly informed of the rationale behind their decisions (e.g list the agencies it consulted), instead of letting this discussion/uncertainty/anxiety grow wild on its Twitter page.

  • 1coolguy

    I’m happy to see a group that is actually rational and not going overboard. So much of this is media generated. Did we see anything near this during the H1N1 that killed more than 1,000 in the US and more than 280,000 world-wide in 2009? No, because the media didn’t blow it out of proportion as they have with this.
    I applaud the Sounders and hope they have a fine night.
    PS: Over 20,000 have died in the US so far this flu season.

    • Tian Biao

      blaming the media for anything bad is reflexive in certain sub-cultures, but the truth is, folks are genuinely afraid. I think they’re afraid because the disease is new, and much is unknown: fatality rate, transmissibility. whereas the flu is well-known and thus easily dismissed. You are correct in saying that their fear response is irrational. at least, I think that’s what you’re saying, aside from ‘shoot the messenger.’

      • art thiel

        True. The standard flu virus has known treatments, and vaccines are a standard fixture in public health care. Older people make up he bulk of annual flu deaths because of their reduced immunity, not the virulence of the disease. Many are like as vulnerable to colds and pneumonia as flu.

        Raw public-health numbers as coolguy cites tell us nothing.

    • art thiel

      Each outbreak, whether Ebola, Zika or H1N1, has different characteristics, including morbidity rate. I don’t presume to understand all the differences, but people who do say this strain is dangerous. I take the many honest health-care professionals at their word.

      Media coverage then and now isn’t perfect. But there’s a whole lot of dead Chinese, Koreans, Italians and Americans, and many more with symptoms, that support the need for intense, quality coverage, particularly to counter the misinformation spread by the guy with the biggest bullhorn.