Saints proposed detailed plan to fill Superdome at 35% capacity, with support from Ochsner
NEW ORLEANS - Team officials say the New Orleans Saints are moving closer to a plan to return fans to the Superdome this season.
On Monday, a team spokesperson said staff met with Mayor Latoya Cantrell to discuss a "phased approach" to allowing fans into the stadium on game day. The team told ESPN it expects to have more information on a potential plan soon.
Saints spokesman Greg Bensel said team officials had a positive meeting with Mayor Cantrell, health advisors and other officials. "We all agree that the priority is to make sure our city’s residents and our fans are safe and not to regress from the progress that has been made." pic.twitter.com/z6fb5iX0We— Mike Triplett (@MikeTriplett) October 19, 2020
The news comes less than a week after the team entered discussions with LSU to potentially host games in Tiger Stadium with limited fan attendance.
Cantrell has repeatedly refused to let the team have fans in the Superdome this season, despite the organization securing state approval. The mayor has argued the closed-roof nature of the Superdome increases the possibility of spreading COVID-19 compared to open-air stadiums.
According to nola.com, in August, before the season began, the Saints met with Gov. John Bel Edwards and proposed hosting games at 35% capacity, meaning nearly 24,000 fans would be allowed in the stadium.
Nola.com obtained a copy of the Saints presentation and reported that it included multiple quotes from Ochsner Health System officials who were in support of the idea.
The presentation quoted Dr. Robert Hart, Ochsner’s Chief Medical Officer, as saying “we are actually OK with the 35% capacity seating plan despite the horizontal distance being less than 6 feet, but with the information provided here I think I could give my support to this plan. It gives some variability in the cohort size, which I think is ideal and much better than the 37% and 50% models.”
“I can support the 35% plan with the distance adjustments that have been pointed out,” added Dr. Katherine Baumgarten, Ochsner’s medical director of infection control and prevention, according to the presentation. “It is reasonable and would meet the CDC guidance.”
The plan featured a detailed “seating manifest methodology” that showed how patrons would be spaced from several angles. In all, 23,875 people would have been allowed in the stadium under the proposal.
But the Governor didn't agree with every aspect of this plan.
On Sept. 1, Gov. Edwards agreed to a plan to allow fans at the Superdome, nola.com reports, but the details weren’t publicly announced. Christina Stephens, a spokeswoman for Edwards, said the Sept. 1 plan would have allowed 25% capacity, in line with the Phase 3 rules that the governor announced publicly nine days later.
Information related to the Saints detailed proposal is evidence of how much value it places on having paying fans in the stadium.
This has put the team at odds with Mayor Cantrell, whose cautious approach to the Crescent City's reopening process appears to have resulted in the loss of profitability among local businesses while aiming to shield citizens from the damaging health consequences of COVID-19.
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