Fans discouraged to go to sporting events, managers say they’re taking precautions

LA CROSSE COUNTY, Wis. (WKBT)– As people celebrate the Fourth of July, the La Crosse County Health Department is worried about people gathering in crowds, especially at sporting events. If celebrations and events are not done right,  the health department warns we could see more COVID-19 cases and outbreaks.

For Ben Kapanke, it came as a bit of a surprise to be called out during Wednesday’s health department press briefing. The department fielded a question from a reporter about the start of the season. In response, the department said they had worked with the Loggers but they were only doing some of the recommendations.

“We felt we put a plan together that was safe, that was responsible,” said Kapanke, general manager for the La Crosse Loggers.

But the health department is warning against big gatherings at places like Loggers stadium and the La Crosse Speedway.

“Even though it’s an outdoor space, those are not in alignment with our current recommendations,” said Jen Rombalski, director for the La Crosse County Health Department.

The La Crosse Speedway said staff have masks and they put barriers up where need be. There’s space for people to move, if they chose to do so.

“We’re 40 some acres of property here, a grandstand longer than a football field and we can spread people out,” said Chuck Deery, general manager for the La Crosse Speedway.

With the first home game Friday, the Loggers plan on temperature checking everyone who comes into the park, staff will wear masks, and the capacity will be cut in half. If people feel the need to distance from each other, they can do so. But the Loggers will not be imposing social distancing on customers.

“On a Friday, Saturday night we can get about 3,000 people in here pretty comfortably. We’re going to reduce that to 1,500,” Kapanke said.

It’s not that the health department is concerned about ‘take me out to the ball game’ it’s about ‘take me out with the crowd.’

“That still is a lot of people and I think there still is risk there,” Rombalski said.

Not just for the staff or fans, but the business.

The department has not issued any orders yet and said they are still uncertain about the level of authority they have to impose a wide-spread order for various sectors in the community. But, Rombalski said if cases are being linked to a particular business and do not follow precautions or recommendations, there could be consequences.

“We can write an order relating to that specific business,” Rombalski said.

But Kapanke and Deery hope it won’t come to that.

“We’re open to a dialogue and a conversation with the health department at any time,” Kapanke said.

“We will, with pleasure, make any changes to maintain a safe environment for our customers who come out here,” Deery said.

The health department said if you go to any type of large gathering for the holiday, you should assume any and all risks of potential exposure to the coronavirus.