The Lions have clearance from their state government to proceed, but it’s clear it’s going to be some time before they have an audience.
Via Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Thursday that allows the return of professional sports, without a live audience.
“Good news, sports fans,” Whitmer said in a statement. “We are now ready to gradually and safely allow professional sports to resume in Michigan. While this is an encouraging step in the reopening of our economy, it is critical for athletes to continue social distancing and taking precautions to stay safe. We want to keep our momentum going and keep moving forward, so it’s incumbent on everyone doing their part to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
There’s plenty of time for the Lions between now and the regular season (or their Aug. 20 preseason home opener), but at the moment, the likelihood of fans is shrinking. The NFL has already made plans to tarp off the first several rows of seats in every stadium to use for advertising (and also to create a buffer).
Whitmer has said stadiums can’t be filled until there is a COVID-19 vaccine.
“We need a vaccine, and we need mass quantities available to be able to test and acknowledge we have some immunity built up,” Whitmer said in May. “We’re not there yet. Until that happens, I think all the organizers of these leagues understand how important it is that we act responsibly here.”
There have been suggestions that vaccine could come late this year or early next year, but it’s too soon to know whether that will help this season.