When the Blazers return from Denver for their first playoff game at home, the team will have more fans—and a vaccinated section.
But the vaccinated fans will still be wearing face masks.
“Out of an abundance of caution and regardless of vaccination status, all fans will be required to adhere to the Rose Quarter’s health and safety protocols, including always wearing a mask on campus,” the NBA press release states.
The requirement for mask-wearing came from the Blazers and will not be required by the state.
The announcement by the NBA was the first indication Multnomah County would receive state approval by Thursday to move to a lower risk category.
Update, 2 pm: Gov. Kate Brown’s office has informed Multnomah County it is approved to move to low risk on Thursday, county spokeswoman Julie Sullivan-Springhetti said. It’s notable that the Blazers knew before the county, given that the Blazers have appeared to be exercising significant influence over the state’s timelines for reopening venues and now over the change in risk level.
The team also says it is going to help get people vaccinated, but did not lay out details in the announcement.
“The Trail Blazers are also supporting vaccination efforts during the first round of playoffs, with more information being shared soon,” the press release states.
As WW reported, the reopening of Moda Center presented an opportunity for incentivizing vaccination, but it was not one that the Blazers or the state initially seized.
The vaccinated section at the Blazers game will not require social distancing, allowing more fans to be in the arena. The state is allowing the Blazers full capacity in the vaccinated section, but will require the team to adhere to county risk-level metrics for capacity in nonvaccinated sections, says Brown spokesman Charles Boyle. (By Thursday, the county metric is expected to limit capacity to 50%.) It’s not clear how many fans that translates to, though with social distancing in the unvaccinated sections it may not be much more than 50% of the arena’s 19,000 capacity. (Update, 2 pm: The Blazers say they expect 8,000 fans at round one games.)
Kids age 15 and younger can sit with their parents in the vaccinated section, assuming they wear a mask like the rest of fans.
The state hopes the vaccinated section can be a model for other businesses. Today’s announcement is not different than what the state offered businesses last week: a relief from social-distancing rules so long as the business checks vaccination cards.
What is different is that a business is agreeing to check patrons’ vaccination status. The overwhelming majority of Oregon businesses have been uninterested in doing that.
“When fans left Moda Center last March, it was one of the first signs this pandemic was about to change our lives in ways we hadn’t previously imagined,” said Brown in a statement. “Vaccines are the key to our return to normal life. It is a testament to the way Oregonians have united to battle this virus and get vaccinated in large numbers that, this week, the Rip City faithful can return to give our Trail Blazers the legendary home court advantage they deserve. If you haven’t gotten around to getting vaccinated yet, go do so today. Don’t miss your shot to cheer on the Blazers as they make a run at a championship.”