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Fans allowed at some California pro sports, but not Disneyland

Pro sports teams can have limited capacity at outdoor stadiums if they are in a county in the lowest two levels of the state's tiered reopening models.

SACRAMENTO, Calif — California will let fans back in outdoor stadiums for pro sporting events in counties with low coronavirus infection rates but isn’t ready to allow Disneyland and other major theme parks to reopen, the state's top health official said Tuesday.

San Francisco and neighboring Alameda and Santa Clara are the only counties that meet the threshold for pro sports. However, immediately after the announcement health officials in Santa Clara, home to the San Francisco 49ers, issued a statement saying they weren't prepared to allow even a limited number of fans into Levi's Stadium.

“As we see COVID-19 rates rising in states across the U.S., and as we enter the winter months when risk will increase, we cannot take chances with the health and wellbeing of our community and forfeit the many sacrifices that have been made to slow the spread,” the officials said in a statement.

The 49ers said the team welcomed the news from the state but “will continue to collaborate with local public health officials to implement a plan that ensures a plan that protects the health and wellness" of the team, its employees and the public.

Under the state rules, pro sports teams could have limited capacity at outdoor stadiums if they are in a county in the lowest two levels of the state's four-tiered model for reopening. Only fans who live within a 120-mile radius may buy tickets.

Credit: AP
FILE - In this Sept. 13, 2020, file photo, empty seats are shown at Levi's Stadium during the first half of an NFL football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals in Santa Clara, Calif.(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

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No county in Southern California has reached those tiers so fans of the NFL's Los Angeles Rams and Chargers are still on the sidelines.

San Francisco is the first highly populated county to move into the state's lowest tier for infections. All the other counties at that level are rural areas scattered near the Oregon border or in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Major theme parks weren't happy that the state is limiting re-openings to those with a maximum capacity of 15,000 patrons. Places like Disneyland and Universal Studios won't be allowed to reopen until their home counties reach the lowest tier.

“These state guidelines will keep us shuttered for the foreseeable future,” Disneyland Resort president Ken Potrock said in a statement saying the decision will harm employees, area businesses and the surrounding communities. He said the park has “proven that we can responsibly reopen.”

Disney World in Florida has been open since summer.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state health secretary, said the goal for both sporting events and theme parks is to keep the crowds small and regional, without allowing visitors to swarm in from other areas and increase the risk of exposure and spread of the pandemic.

California has recently been able to keep its transmission rate low while numbers rise across most of the nation, though Ghaly warned that a state model shows California could see a 46% increase in hospitalizations in another month. Hospitalizations now are at levels not seen since early April.