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Minnesota Vikings drop plans for larger crowds in 2020

Minnesota Vikings’ US Bank Stadium will remain closed to the general public for the remainder of the 2020 NFL regular season.

The team said the decision to keep the 66,000-capacity venue closed to fans other than 250 family members of team staff for the final four games of the season had been taken following discussions with stadium partners, the State of Minnesota and the City of Minneapolis.

Having previously pursued a waiver on local restrictions on mass gatherings, with many NFL teams hosting thousands of fans, Vikings said the decision to close the doors for the rest of the season was taken following a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations across Minnesota.

“While we have worked hard to develop a safe and responsible plan to bring back a limited number of fans, our decisions have been based on medical guidance with public health as the top priority,” Vikings said in a statement.

“We take seriously Minnesota’s rising COVID infection rates and increasing hospitalisations and believe closing the final four home games to fans is the right decision to help protect our community.”

A Minnesota state mandate has prohibited indoor gatherings larger than 250 people throughout the season, however, the team had continued to work with US Bank Stadium and the state in an attempt to host more fans at some point this season. The Minnesota Department of Health Minnesota on Wednesday reported a record 56 new deaths from COVID-19 and 4,900 new coronavirus cases, raising the state’s death toll to 2,754 and its total case count to 194,570.

While US Bank Stadium has been closed to the general public, around 250 family members of team staff have been able to watch games.

Some 14 of the 31 NFL teams have barred fans at their home stadiums so far during 2020, with New England Patriots this week announcing they would play out the rest of the season behind closed doors at Gillette Stadium. The Texas-based Dallas Cowboys have welcomed an average attendance of 25,000 during 2020, with six other NFL teams also averaging more than 10,000.

A Vikings spokesperson added: “Players, coaches and staff have missed the energy and passion Vikings fans bring on game day and appreciate the unwavering remote support as we enter the second half of the 2020 season.

“We look forward to welcoming fans back next season and recreating the special environment we all enjoy at US Bank Stadium. To be in a position to do that, we strongly encourage everyone in Minnesota to take the necessary precautions to minimise the spread of this virus by wearing face coverings, practicing proper social distancing and limiting social gatherings.”

Image: Darb02 / licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license / Cropped for size