Coronavirus surge in Green Bay and elsewhere to blame for team’s decision to play in an empty stadium indefinitely.
While much of Wisconsin may be discussing the new restrictions on indoor gatherings made necessary by the nearly unchecked spread of the coronavirus, it’s the new restriction on one of the state’s premier outdoor gathering places that will be especially noticeable on Sunday afternoons as the Green Bay Packers sack any hopes of allowing fans back into Lambeau Field to watch games.
Team CEO and President Mark Murphy, who has previously stated his wariness of reopening the stadium due to the state’s growing coronavirus infection rate, announced Tuesday an indefinite hold on allowing any fans to attend the team’s remaining home games, even in a limited fashion as some other teams are attempting.
“We are trending in the wrong direction in terms of hospitalization and positive cases,” Murphy said in a statement. “And based on recommendations from community healthcare and public health officials, hosting fans at the stadium for games is not advisable at this time. The health and safety of our players, staff and community is our priority.”
Brown County has been a perpetual hotbed of coronavirus activity since mid-spring and has already seen more than 10,000 infections and 69 deaths. The confirmation of more than 1,000 new cases last week alone likely played a role in the team’s decision.
“We all need to take the pandemic seriously and do our part to reduce the spread of the virus, which should lead to significant improvement in the rates of infection and hospitalizations. At that point we’ll be able to experience games in person,” Murphy said.
Someone else who knows a few things about how to win in Green Bay believes President Donald Trump bears a substantial share of the blame for the loss of fan attendance this season. Former Packers coach Mike Holmgren, who led the team to victory in Super Bowl 31 and had a 75-37 record during his tenure at Lambeau Field in the 1990s, said the Trump administration’s failure to lead on the pandemic prompted his decision to publicly endorse challenger Joe Biden.
“[The team’s] announcement makes one thing very clear—President Trump’s failure to mount a forceful response to the coronavirus pandemic has had profound consequences for Green Bay’s economy,” said Holmgren in a statement provided by the Biden campaign. “Small businesses in the community are paying dearly. We are now months into this crisis, cases are surging across Wisconsin, and President Trump still doesn’t have a plan to get the virus under control. It didn’t have to be this bad.”
A report in the Green Bay Press Gazette says the loss of Packers’ home games could mean a loss of $150 million in local economic activity.