Levi's Stadium
(Mark Conley / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Vaccine Watch

Can Santa Cruz area residents go to Levi’s Stadium vaccine site? It’s complicated

The NFL is making all 32 of its stadiums available as coronavirus vaccination sites — but “not many” Santa Cruz area residents will be eligible for vaccination at Levi’s because it is designated for Santa Clara County residents.

Amid empty seats and unused concession stands, NFL teams in 2020 converted their stadiums into polling places and COVID-19 testing sites.

Now, less than two days before the Super Bowl, the NFL will transform their stadiums into another essential service — vaccine sites.

Vaccine Watch

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The 49ers and Santa Clara County announced Friday that Levi’s Stadium will soon become “the largest vaccination site in California” with goals of vaccinating 15,000 people per day.

The site will open “early next week” with the initial capacity to vaccinate 5,000 people per day, the team said. And it will be staffed by members of the County of Santa Clara Health System.

Lookout reached out to Santa Clara County to see if there would be opportunities for Santa Cruz area residents at to be vaccinated at Levi’s. The answer is “not many.”

According to a Santa Clara County spokesperson: “Santa Cruz residents in Phase 1a (health care workers) who work in Santa Clara County will be eligible. For those eligible because they are age 65 and up, it is limited to Santa Clara County residents. Volunteers at county vaccination sites may be eligible to receive the vaccine if they are in a patient-facing role as a health care worker.”

In its press release announcing the 49ers team president Al Guido said the organization is “proud to partner with the County of Santa Clara to bring this vaccination site online as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

As SF Gate points out, the news release quotes other members of the county board of supervisors, but not county health director Dr. Sara Cody or county CEO Jeff Smith. Smith previously engaged in a public spat with head coach Kyle Shanahan after the county’s December stay-at-home order forced the team to temporarily relocate to Phoenix.

In a letter to President Biden, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said all 32 franchises will offer their stadiums as mass vaccination centers.

Seven NFL teams — the Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons — already opened the stadiums for mass vaccinations.

“We look forward to further discussion with your administration as well as your partners in state and local governments to advance this effort,” Goodell wrote in the letter, which was dated Thursday.

The league invited 7,500 healthcare workers from across the country to Tampa this weekend to attend Super Bowl LIV on Sunday between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs.

The NFL completed all scheduled events this season amid the pandemic without any cancellations, though the 2020 draft was held virtually and some games were rescheduled amid outbreaks at team facilities. Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said that between August and January, the league had 725 coronavirus cases among players and staff, yielding a 0.08% positivity rate.

COVID-19 has killed more than 450,000 Americans. Though vaccinations are underway, the rollout has been sluggish because of logistical problems and lack of supply.

Both Goodell and Sills said in new conferences that the league would be a prominent advocate for vaccination initiatives.

“Let’s make no mistake about it, both us and the players association’s medical leadership believe very strongly in vaccinations,” Sills said. “We believe it’s safe, we believe it’s effective, we believe it’s imperative as a way forward out of this pandemic.”

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times, a Lookout content partner. Lookout Santa Cruz Staff contributed to this report.

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