The New Orleans Saints announced on Tuesday a plan with Mayor LaToya Cantrell to allows fans to attend home games starting Sunday.
The Saints play the Carolina Panthers at the Superdome on Sunday, and 3,000 tickets will be made available to season ticket holders.
“Mayor LaToya Cantrell in partnership with the New Orleans Saints have agreed to a phased and deliberate pilot approach allowing fans to attend Saints games in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, beginning with this weekend's game against the Carolina Panthers,” a team statement reads.
“Season ticket holders will have access to 3,000 tickets that will be distributed for the October 25th Carolina home game to be played at noon CT.”
Saints want more fans as season progresses
The plan is to then increase capacity to 6,000 fans for November games against the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons, and 15,000 fans for December home games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings “barring any change in local health & safety guidelines.”
The announcement encouraged fans to wear masks, socially distance and promote “a healthy and safe environment for our fans.” The statement did not note that masks will be mandated or lay out a plan to keep fans socially distanced.
Mayor previously balked at fans at Superdome
Cantrell had previously denied Saints requests to host fans at 25 percent capacity (around 18,500 fans) amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Both Cantrell and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards were required to sign off on any plan fans to attend games.
Cantrell addressed her decision on Twitter last Tuesday.
At present, no NFL stadium in the country with a fixed-roof facility is allowing such an exception. We will continue to monitor the public health data, but cannot set an artificial timeline for how and when conditions may allow for the kind of special exemption being requested.
— Mayor LaToya Cantrell (@mayorcantrell) October 13, 2020
What changed between last week and Tuesday is not clear. Cantrell did not provide a statement when the news was announced.
Saints reportedly considered playing at LSU
With Cantrell previously holding firm, the Saints reportedly reached out to LSU about playing games in Baton Rouge, where nearly 26,000 fans are allowed for Tigers home games. Tuesday’s announcement appears to take that option off the table.
The Saints are joining 14 other NFL teams who have allowed fans to attend games in limited capacity during the pandemic. The Dallas Cowboys allow the highest attendance with more than 24,000 fans per home game.
COVID-19 is getting worse
Other teams like the New York Giants and Jets, the league’s California teams and the Green Bay Packers continue to restrict fan access, citing regional and state regulations and the ongoing pandemic, which is in the midst of a resurgence across the United States.
As of Monday, at least 30 states were experiencing an increased rate of COVID-19 cases, according to NPR. The Washington Post reports that the pandemic has so far caused almost 300,000 more deaths in the United States this year than are typically expected.
Health experts are warning against COVID-19 fatigue with some models predicting the U.S. death toll to double in the next four months.
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