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‘Smooth’ debut for Giants’ fans pre-game: COVID vaccination, negative test checks don’t bog down lines

‘Smooth’ debut for Giants’ fans pre-game: COVID vaccination, negative test checks don’t bog down lines

Some flashed test results on their cellphones, while others pulled precious vaccination cards from their wallets. One group of well-prepared fans had a manila folder with their documents. Another kept proof of their COVID-19 immunizations in plastic lanyards as if they were backstage passes.

As pandemic restrictions relax and vaccinations become more widespread, the scene outside Oracle Park ahead of the San Francisco Giants’ first home game Friday afternoon might be a preview of what we can expect at large public events in the months to come.

Before their tickets were scanned, all of the nearly 9,000 fans — a sea of black and orange — were required to show stadium workers proof either of their full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within the previous 72 hours.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 09: San Francisco Giants fans check in at one of the COVID-19 vaccination/negative test verification booths before being admitted to Oracle Park at the Giants’ season home opener on Friday, April 9, 2021, in San Francisco, Calif. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

That meant some fans had to scramble to get tested this week, while others fumbled around on their phones to find the proof they needed at the verification stops. A few had to shell out $35 for a rapid test the Giants were offering at the ballpark.

For the most part, they said it was no big deal. Gary Loy, a 68-year-old fan from El Sobrante, said taking a few seconds to show his vaccination card was “very easy” and “smooth.”

Even some who had to jump through hoops weren’t complaining. The chance to attend a game in person after a year away — and make sure it was safe — was worth a few extra minutes.

“We have to do it right,” said Duncan McCreight, who, more than two-and-a-half hours before the first pitch, stopped by the large COVID-19 testing site next to the busy patio at Red’s Java House on the Embarcadero. “They’re trying to do everything they can to keep people safe.”

McCreight, 62, got his second vaccination shot Monday, but because he isn’t yet fully protected, he still needed a negative COVID-19 test. He got one of those on Tuesday so that he could attend Friday’s home opener, but he’s also going to Sunday’s series finale — hence another pregame test.

“It’s nutsy, but it’s what you’ve got to do, I guess,” McCreight said.

The Giants are for now the only baseball team in California requiring fans to show proof of vaccination or negative tests to attend games in person, a requirement imposed by San Francisco public health officials. The rule has been criticized as potential overkill, since outdoor events with social distancing — the Giants had just 22% of their pre-COVID-19 capacity in the stands Friday — already pose low risk for coronavirus transmission.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 09: San Francisco Giants fans listen to the directions for the COVID-19 vaccination/negative test verification that’s required before being admitted to Oracle Park at the Giants’ season home opener on Friday, April 9, 2021, in San Francisco, Calif. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

But there are signs similar checks could become more widespread as California lifts most pandemic-era restrictions on June 15, and higher-risk gatherings such as live concerts welcome back large numbers of attendees.

While Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state officials have said there are no plans to create government-issued “vaccine passports,” it’s possible private businesses such as airlines, concert promoters or sports franchises could adopt requirements that people show proof of inoculation.

Newsom’s administration has not said whether the state will continue to limit capacity at sporting events after June 15.

The verification process didn’t seem to significantly gum up the process of getting fans into Oracle Park on Friday. Even as time for the first pitch drew near, the line at Willie Mays Plaza was short and moved quickly. Giants spokeswoman Staci Slaughter said she did not know of anyone who had been turned away at the gates and said the process “went very smoothly.”

Kathy Lopez, an 18-year-old fan from Millbrae, was one of those who shelled out for a rapid test at the stadium after she wasn’t able to get one ahead of time. About an hour before first pitch, Lopez got a quick nasal swab inside the Public House, a pub at the stadium, before heading to the game with her father.

“It’s worth it,” Lopez said, “so you’re super sure nobody has it.”

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 09: Kathy Lopez,18, of Millbrae goes inside Public House, a bar at Oracle Park, to get a rapid COVID-19 test, before the Giants’ season home opener on Friday, April 9, 2021, in San Francisco, Calif. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

Mark Restani and Tyler Moore didn’t mind having to get tested in the days ahead of the game — what mattered most to them was getting back into the stands.

The two friends from San Francisco made a grand entrance, rolling up to Oracle Park on the back of a pedi-cab, dressed to the nines in matching black suits, shined shoes and orange bowties. They carried the cutouts of themselves they’d paid to have placed in the stands during last year’s fan-free season.

“We’re making up for last year,” Moore said.

“We’re making up for lost time,” Restani added.

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