Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer has authorized the return of professional sports, as Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press writes. Whitmer’s statement reads as follows:
“Good news, sports fans. We are now ready to gradually and safely allow professional sports to resume in Michigan. While this is an encouraging step in the reopening of our economy, it is critical for athletes to continue social distancing and taking precautions to stay safe. We want to keep our momentum going and keep moving forward, so it’s incumbent on everyone doing their part to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
Whitmer’s executive order makes it clear that live audiences are still not permitted. However, the order does allow for the Lions to start training camp at the end of July as planned, and perhaps for the team to host a preseason contest at Ford Field.
Whitmer has maintained for some time that capacity crowds will not be permitted until there is a COVID-19 vaccine, which could happen at the end of 2020 or early 2021. But even partially-filled stadiums feel like something of a stretch for most teams, the Lions included.
“[T]he fact of the matter is, COVID-19 is a novel virus and that means it’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before,” Whitmer said in May. “We’re learning a tremendous amount. Every week that goes by, we’ve learned so much more about this disease and what it’s going to take to keep us safe and to avoid that second wave.”
So if the NFL season moves forward, the Lions will be at Ford Field. It just doesn’t sound like any of their fans will be joining them.
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