GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers will begin the process of potentially allowing fans into Lambeau Field by hosting a group of about 500 Packers employees and their household family members into Sunday night’s game against the Chicago Bears.
“We don’t take this stuff lightly in terms of being able to have people in the stands,” Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy said on Monday.
The Packers will test the health and safety protocols at this game and the following week’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles before possibly allowing ticketed fans into the Week 15 game against the Carolina Panthers on Dec. 19 or 20, the Week 16 game against the Tennessee Titans on Dec. 27 and any potential playoff games.
The team examined the protocols implemented by clubs that have successfully allowed fans into their stadiums. Green Bay played in front of limited fans in games at Tampa Bay, Houston and on Sunday in Indianapolis.
“A couple things that made me feel comfortable about this is, No. 1, obviously, it’s an outside venue,” Murphy said. “There’s a big difference between outside venues and indoors. When you look at it from the big picture, we’re going to be at less than 1 percent of our total capacity.”
Chris Woleske, the president and CEO of Bellin Health, borrowed an analogy from Michael Landrum, an infectious disease expert at Bellin.
“Because attendees will be seated with members of their household only, this is essentially like moving the couch from their living room to the stadium, but with a few extra layers of clothing, of course,” she said.
For weeks, according to NFLPA data from Johns Hopkins University, Green Bay had been the hardest-hit NFL city in terms of COVID-19 infection rates. That dubious honor now belongs to Minnesota, with an average of 104.00 new cases per day per 100,000 population. Green Bay is second with 90.83 and Chicago is third with 89.66.
Still, the Packers are going to tip-toe forward with potentially allowing fans into Lambeau Field with a couple of trials the next two weeks.
“Really, it was the impetus from the health experts,” Murphy said. “They really felt that this is an opportunity to model good behavior. You can have, especially outdoor events like this, in a safe way. That really was key. I think the other thing is we all need to take this virus seriously. I think there is a little bit of an attitude of, ‘So what? It’s no different than the flu.’ You talk to people that have had it, health-care workers that are under siege in terms of dealing with it, and it really gives you a sense of how serious it is. We take this as a good way to model proper behavior.”