Oregon governor faces scrutiny over capacity limits at sporting events as state sees coronavirus surge

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Oregon Gov. Kate Brown came under fire Friday over her alleged hardline stance against fans attending sporting events in the state in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Portland Trail Blazers will be the only team in the NBA not to have fans in the stands as the team tries to stay in playoff contention with nine games remaining on their schedule. The team is on a road trip currently but is set to be back in Portland May 7-10 and for the season finale May 16.

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One team official expressed frustration to the The Oregonian.

“She was in sync with Washington and California at the beginning of the pandemic,” the anonymous team official said. “She was afraid to be on her own. But now, she’s completely alone. It’s baffling.

“It makes you wonder who is in her ear.”

The Trail Blazers reportedly sent a detailed and stringent plan to re-open the Moda Center at 10% of capacity to the Democratic governor and the Oregon Health Authority. While it was initially approved, it was later swatted down amid recent-related coronavirus closures around the state.

The Oregonian reported that Brown was concerned about a backlash from small businesses.

“There’s no denying that the pandemic has required sacrifices from everyone. As covid cases and hospitalizations are rising, we are confident that the virus will recede substantially as vaccination rates continue to rise,” Trail Blazers team president Chris McGowan told the paper.

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“In consultation with infectious disease experts and the NBA, our team worked incredibly hard to develop a meticulously detailed plan that maintains the safety of our players, staff and fans, and meets or exceeds guidance from the state and CDC. After months of diligent work with the state and OHA, we still don’t know more now about our return to fans than we did at the beginning of the season. With our regular season ending on May 16, we are the last team across all US professional sports leagues without a clear path of return.”

Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers and the National Women’s Soccer League’s Portland Thorns have approved 15% capacity for their outdoor venues but are also facing rollbacks, the paper reported.

Oregon has seen a spike in coronavirus cases recently while most of the country has either stayed steady or seen a decrease. The state reported 1,008 new coronavirus cases Friday, compared to about 200 cases per day in March. According to KATU-TV, Oregon leads the country in the rate of new COVID-19 infections.

“The capacity issue the Governor is focused on is making sure Portland-area hospitals and ICUs are not overwhelmed so we can save lives,” Charles Boyle, a spokesman for Brown told The Oregonian, adding that the governor is being advised by the Oregon Health Authority.

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About 30.5% of Oregon residents have been fully vaccinated – higher than California, Texas and Florida, where professional sports teams have allowed fans in indoor venues.

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