Photo by Cristiano Valli

“It’s not a matter of ‘if.’ It’s a matter of ‘when.’”

Update, March 11: Mayor London Breed has initiated a moratorium on gatherings of 1,000 or more — regardless of venues being public or private. That includes Warriors games. This will, initially, last for two weeks. 

Original story: The Golden State Warriors have opted to continue holding games in front of large crowds at Chase Center in spite of the spreading COVID-19 virus — and also in spite of repeated calls to cancel them from multiple San Francisco officials. 

“I have personally spoken to the head of the Warriors organization, Rick Welts,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin. “I have expressed my desire that they do this voluntarily before, in the days ahead, we do it as an emergency public health order. It’s not a matter of ‘if.’ It’s a matter of ‘when.’ I hope they come to that conclusion before we make them come to that conclusion.” 

The office of Mayor London Breed on Friday released a set of “aggressive recommendations” to curtail the spread of the virus. These included “canceling non-essential events” including “large gatherings such as concerts, sporting events, conventions or large community events.” 

In what would be challenging to characterize as an “essential event,” the 15-49 Warriors host the Los Angeles Clippers tonight at Chase Center. The team over the weekend posted signs at the entrance informing anyone who entered that they did so at their own risk, and indemnifying GSW Arena LLC and the National Basketball Association. 

As seen at Chase Center.

Prior to tonight’s game, signs warned anyone who has in the last two weeks experienced “fever, tiredness, dry cough, aches & pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, or diarrhea” against entering the premises. 

Sources within the mayor’s office said the Warriors have been presented with the city’s “aggressive recommendations.” They summed up the team’s response as “thanks for the recommendations.” 

When asked what the team would do if the city’s “recommendations” became something more forceful, the mayor’s office stated “we haven’t had that conversation yet.” 

Mission Local’s calls to Warriors CEO Rick Welts have not yet been returned. 

When asked by The Athletic if the Warriors should be holding games at this time, Dr. John Swartzberg, a UC Berkeley infectious disease expert, offered a flat “no.” 

“I think large gatherings of people in closed environments in the case of a pandemic is not prudent,” he continued. “It’s the perfect way to spread the virus.”  

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In Santa Clara County, gatherings of more than 1,000 people were on Monday curtailed at the order of Health Director Dr. Sara Cody. This includes San Jose Sharks National Hockey League games at SAP Center. 

In San Francisco, gatherings of more than 50 people have been nixed at city-owned venues, and a number of public gatherings, including the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, have been canceled. The ballet and symphony have both pulled the plug for the near future, and San Francisco State, City College, and Academy of Art University have curtailed in-person classes.

Mayor London Breed’s office said it is basing its decisions on the suggestions of Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax, and he has not yet urged the broad cancelation of events that would affect gatherings at the 18,000-seat Chase Center. 

That came as a surprise to former San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, now Santa Clara County’s deputy county executive. 

“The experience we had here in Santa Clara County is, sometimes you can ask these private entities to do the right thing. But sometimes they don’t, so you have to not just ask but require,” Campos said. “In San Francisco, it seems, that is what it will take to cancel something like a Warriors game. By every indication of what the city’s guidelines say, something like that should not be taking place at this time.” 

Campos was further confused by the city’s steps to ban large gatherings in public venues but not private ones: “A virus does not discriminate based upon who owns the facility.” 

Rachael Kagan, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, said that, “we certainly hope people abide by the recommendations.” When asked what factors Colfax will use to decide if and when to do more than recommend the curtailment of large private gatherings, she replied “there is not a crisp trigger point. What we look at is the virus in the community.” 

San Francisco and Santa Clara Counties are different, and the rates of infection are different, she continued. Santa Clara has more people, more diagnosed cases, and has experienced more deaths. 

“We look at the Centers for Disease Control guidelines, and talk to state officials and the global health experts at UC San Francisco,” Kagan said. 

These discussions have apparently not yet led Colfax to pull the trigger that his Santa Clara counterpart Dr. Cody did. 

Peskin predicted that day would come — and soon. 

“I think it’s complicated for the Warriors, and not just financially, but also relative to working with the league and its commissioner,” he said. “But this is all happening very, very quickly. Every city will be here within a few hours or days of one another. We’re getting there. It would be nice, given our long-term relationship and shared interest, if they came to this conclusion on their own.” 

Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. 

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Managing Editor/Columnist. Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

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  1. Campers,

    Be advised.

    That warm cloud of fog that floats over sporting events
    is mostly composed of the exhaled fumes from the lungs
    of the audience of the event.

    It is a potentially lethal aerosol.

    But, you just signed away your rights to sue if you’re infected.

    Next, you’ll need to sign an NDA?

    At least, practice safe sex.

    Go Giants!


  2. It’s unconscionable that the Warriors are continuining to play to full stadiums. I guess doing the right thing ain’t in their DNA?

    And OMG, David Compost, what a parasite. I see he took his do nothing public servant career down to the South Bay. What a shame. I guess the private sector is asking too much. Get a real job Dave!

    1. Shirley — 

      Like I told the other guy, maybe next time I’ll quote Shirley from the Internet instead of the infectious disease expert from UC Berkeley.

      Stay safe,


      1. Joe –

        Surely you will agree that Shirley is therefore an expert because she surely disproved your quoted statements from an “expert.“


  3. Look at the are a thousandfold as likely to die from the flu and we haven’t been shutting down the NBA or anything else for that

    1. Gary — 

      You seem like a smart guy who understands how contagion works. Maybe I’ll call you up next time instead of the doctors specializing in infectious diseases.



  4. Sorry Snowflake…BS total overreaction…it’s the Politicians not the medical experts who recommended these overreaction….PS sent by 71 year old from Zuckerberg General Hospital where practically none of the staff are wearing masks and paranoid

  5. Those in charge of the Warriors are greedy, they have a new stadium to pay for. So they disregard the health of their fans, their very people they NEED to survive. Nice one…losers.

  6. the NBA will do anything for money- plain and simple. They allow their star players to do ads advertising sodas with HIGH FRUCTOSE SUGAR and then tout itself as being so concerned about the YOUTH in the community but forget that community has a plague of obeseness and diabetes tracked to that high fructose sugar. It also allow ads during its games featuring video games pushing violence and movies focused on violence and drugs. IT, the nba, will say it cannot control the ads broadcast during its games which is total bullshit.
    Keep up your ‘great ‘ work NBA pushing obesity, diabetes, violence and drugs. Why do you think these ads are run during the games for the audience is highly concentrated with the victims of these ads.

  7. Believe me when I say that people that run this place and their organization are some of the greediest people around. They will never shut down voluntarily. I hope the city finally has enough will to shut them down and avoid the spread of the virus like it has become in the South Bay. It’s here. More people should start demanding that such businesses become more responsible with the spread amongst the local population..,. nobody else will do it it seems.

  8. It is irresponsible for the Warriors to move forward with the game, contradicting disease control professionals. It is not fair to the fans either. For the team to ban the media in the lockers rooms due to COVID-19 and not expect the same for the fans is a blatant disregard for their fans safety; and even worse, a money grab at the expense of those heeding the warnings of public officials that are planning not to go tonight.

  9. But the players can play, and exchange bodily fluids at a surface level. This makes zero sense. Either let teams play in full stadiums or postpone the season (which is overkill).

    1. Duke, player to player contact is the least of the concerns. It is the close contact between persons of all ages and state of health crowded together – a potential epidemiological nightmare. Most responsible organizations are operating with an abundance of caution – apparently not the Warriors. Let’s hope that for our sake that they dodge a bullet.

    2. Can you, for the love of all that is good and holy, check your facts before posting dumb comments like this. Players aren’t gonna participate if they’re feverish/coughing/experiencing body aches. They won’t be getting other players sick.

      Spectators of all types and all venues sit in the stands and cough. That’s the issue.

      1. Check your facts. People can be asymptomatic and spreaders without coughing and fever.

  10. Well done. Seems like another bricked shot by the DPH, which plays at a G League level even during the regular season. The NBA owners have been talking about shutting out the fans while continuing to televise games, and the players have bought into the idea (LeBron who said he would never play in an empty arena has apparently changed his mind). So why not do it? The Dubs claim they can’t take the decision unilaterally because of the League etc. etc. But if they were told to do it, they would have to comply and the League would follow — then the Dubs could at least make a dubious claim to moral leadership in an otherwise thoroughly retro season. A win-win. Come on Grant (Colfax). Be a sport.