A part-time stadium worker at CenturyLink Field who worked the Seattle Dragons’ XFL game on Feb. 22 recently tested positive for novel coronavirus, but public health officials cautioned Thursday that the risk is low that the employee infected any of the more than 22,000 people who attended the game.
The employee, who public health officials did not identify, worked as a concessions vendor, according to a source knowledgeable about the matter.
“We have worked with the employee and the operator of the stadium, First and Goal, to evaluate potential exposures at the Feb. 22 Seattle Dragons game, and we’ve determined that the risk of infection to attendees from this person was low,” James Apa, spokesman for Public Health — Seattle/King County, said in an email Thursday. “We are following up with a few co-workers with close contacts of the employee at the February 22nd game to provide guidance on appropriate precautions.”
Dave Pearson, a First and Goal spokesman, said in an email Thursday the worker last worked at the stadium on Feb. 22, but “did not show symptoms at that time and has not been onsite since.”
The stadium operator is now working with “local and federal health agencies as well as league offices (NFL, MLS, XFL) on the latest recommendations and guidelines to ensure the safest environment possible for our guests and staff,” Pearson’s email said.
“CenturyLink Field has implemented heightened sanitation procedures and processes, including enhanced cleaning treatments to disinfect all areas of the stadium before and after every event, additional hand-sanitizing stations, and continued staff training and education,” he said.
Citing privacy concerns, neither public health officials nor the stadium operator would provide specific details Thursday about the infected employee’s specific job duties or assigned work area within the stadium.
Since Jan. 21, when public health officials announced a Snohomish County man had the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the nation, the Seattle area has become the epicenter for the disease in the United States. As of Thursday afternoon, the Washington state Department of Health reported 70 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Washington, including 10 deaths.
The most severe cases of the disease, known as COVID-19, typically involve older people or those with underlying health conditions, public health officials have said.
The Seattle Dragons have drawn impressive crowds to CenturyLink for the alternative pro-football league’s inaugural season. Official attendance for the Feb. 22 game against the Dallas Renegades was 22,060.
Apa, the public health spokesman, said “no extra precautions are required” for patrons of the Feb. 22nd game or for those attending upcoming events, “but all King County residents should know that the risk for infection with COVID-19 is increasing in our community.”
People should pay attention to any symptoms they might get, and call their health-care provider if they develop a cough, fever or other respiratory problems, Apa said.
As of Thursday, King County officials had not advised the public to avoid games or other events at local stadiums and arenas, but they’re warning those at high risk for severe illness — people over 60, or those with underlying health conditions, weakened immune systems or who are pregnant — to avoid large groups.
“As of now, Seattle’s professional sports organizations – Dragons, First & Goal/Seahawks, Mariners and Sounders FC – will continue with scheduled events,” a statement from King County Executive Dow Constantine’s office said.
The Sounders, who also play at CenturyLink Field, opened their season in Seattle last weekend in front of 40,126 fans. Despite fears of the virus, the Sounders will host Saturday’s game vs. the Columbus Crew as planned, the team said Thursday, but are advising that at-risk members of the community and individuals who are currently sick refrain from attending the game.
“As our organization has previously stated, nothing is more important than public safety and the well-being of our fans at all Sounders FC events,” a Sounders news release stated. “We are in continuous dialogue with regional health authorities and Major League Soccer, in addition to our network of medical experts.”