The Stanford football team on Tuesday joined a growing list of displaced sports teams that are jumping state and county lines to avoid local health restrictions and keep playing sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
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In a statement, the school said the team would travel to Seattle to prepare for its game Saturday at Washington and then travel to Corvallis, Oregon, to prepare for its game the following week against Oregon State — a game that has been moved from Stanford to Oregon State.
The moves follow an emergency directive from Santa Clara County issued Saturday that forbids contact sports in the county for three weeks, one of several measures the county has issued to address the rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The directive also affects the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, which are temporarily moving to Arizona, and the San Jose State Spartans, which are expected to announce a temporary home soon.
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“There is no question that contact sports—where we have seen outbreaks across the nation—is an activity that inherently cannot be done with social distancing, and there have been outbreaks on teams across the country,” Santa Clara County said in response to a question about the ban on contact sports.
The county said its priority is to protect hospital capacity to ensure people get the critical care they need. It previously said it was disappointed when the San Jose State football team moved out of the county before the season to avoid other county health restrictions that limited its ability to prepare for the season. The Spartans instead bussed up to Humboldt County, 325 miles north, where the restrictions were looser on public gatherings, allowing them to practice more normally.
Public health experts have said that boundary jumping sends a bad message to the public – that it’s OK to shop around for looser restrictions in a bid to find normalcy during the pandemic. In New Mexico, where public gatherings are restricted to no more than five people, college basketball teams have temporarily moved to Arizona and Texas while the New Mexico football team has relocated to Las Vegas.
“I’m sympathetic to the effect of the pandemic on collegiate athletes and college budgets, but these are extraordinary times and they call for stringent measures,” Virginia Tech epidemiologist Charlotte Baker told USA TODAY Sports. “Playing sports in the midst of the pandemic without a WNBA/NBA bubble situation has proven to not be the safest route to continue participating in activities. I urge colleges and their supporters to identify safer alternatives within the boundaries set by their home state. We can bring an end to this pandemic but everyone needs to participate in the solutions.”
It could be a while before the teams move back to the Bay Area. Santa Clara County also requires persons entering the county to quarantine for 14 days upon return from travel of more than 150 miles.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Stanford football joins list of line-jumpers avoiding COVID-19 restrictions