Why no COVID vaccine requirements for S.F. Giants fans?
Giants fans enter Oracle Park - no vaccine, no test required. | Jeff Chiu / AP

The number of reported COVID-19 deaths in the USA has now surpassed the 655,000 military and civilian deaths we suffered in the Civil War—the deadliest war in our history. In fact, we are several thousand deaths beyond that grim marker, and rising fast. The end is nowhere in sight.

The fight against the pandemic in the United States has been one part science, one part political insanity, and one part corporate greed fought on the battleground of a failing medical system and a defunded public health system. In short, chaos.

Into that mix, the San Francisco Giants are headed to the playoffs.

On Monday, September 13, the day the Giants clinched a playoff berth, there was yet another notice distributed to ballpark food service workers about yet another COVID infection among workers, now more than 20 and counting. [Update: There was another COVID infection reported on Wednesday, September 15.]

To serve fans their garlic fries and chicken tenders, the Giants require food service workers to have proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. This helps protect workers. It also helps protect fans from being infected by workers.

But to attend a game at the ballpark, fans have to do exactly nothing. Here is what it says on the Giants website: NO COVID-19 ENTRY REQUIREMENTS.

So much for protecting workers from the fans.

It’s as if the Giants think workers are dirty with the coronavirus, but fans are somehow clean.

It’s no secret that UNITE HERE Local 2 food service workers voted by an overwhelming 97% majority to authorize a strike at the ballpark, if necessary.

In addition to COVID safety concerns, there are a whole raft of unresolved economic issues on the table, including a proposal by our bosses that might force workers to pay hundreds of dollars per month to maintain their medical plan—in the midst of the pandemic.

So much for protecting workers from COVID.

At the beginning of the season, back in April, fans were required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test. Public health officials also limited the number of fans allowed in the park.

But those precautions have been thrown to the wind. San Francisco officials now allow the Giants to jam as many fans into the park as they can. No proof of vaccination required. No negative test required. Not even at the September 3-5 Giants-Dodgers games, when the stadium was packed.

“People should be very concerned,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, a professor at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, talking about large outdoor events in a recent San Francisco Examiner article. “If you’re talking about a large crowd of people and no social distancing while singing, talking, and yelling, that’s a lot of virus being thrown out in the air…”

We are supposed to watch people catch baseballs at Giants games, not play catch the virus.

Despite the emergence of the much more dangerous Delta variant, the Giants are still allowing any and all fans into the ballpark. All they need to show is that they have the bucks to pay for a ticket.

At the BottleRock 2021 Napa Valley Music Festival, the same weekend as the Giants-Dodgers series, festival goers were required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test. More than 120,000 fans attended BottleRock,

At the huge Outside Lands 2021 music festival in Golden Gate Park coming up at the end of October, attendees will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test.

Just last weekend, San Francisco’s 22nd How Weird Street Faire, a gala affair on South-of-Market streets with eight different music stages, required every weirdo to show proof of vaccination or a negative test.

“I issue this appeal,” said President Joseph Biden as part of his new COVID-19 Action Plan, “to those of you running large entertainment venues—from sports arenas to concert venues to movie theaters—please require folks to get vaccinated or show a negative test as a condition of entry.”

So, what’s up, Giants? What makes your ballpark so special that the safety of your workers and even of your fans mean so little to you?

Does this have anything to do with the Giants principal owner Charles Johnson? Johnson, as most of us have learned, is a big-time fan and contributor to Donald Trump, the king of crackpot COVID confusion. Johnson even continues to contribute money to Republicans who claim that Trump won the 2020 election.

Are Giants workers and fans being put in harm’s way to satisfy Johnson’s reactionary agenda?

And what’s up with the City? In late August, Mayor London Breed, after declaring a citywide vaccine mandate for indoor businesses, suggested that the requirement could be extended to outdoor events with more than 5,000 people. The current city protocols say that these vaccine mandates are “strongly recommended.” Is that really the best the city can do?

Are our city leaders afraid of the Giants and of Major League Baseball? If not, why does it seem as if the Giants political clout outweighs science, outweighs public health, and outweighs the health and safety of ballpark workers and fans?

San Francisco’s COVID numbers are better than most, but the virus and especially the Delta variant remains a deadly and disabling disease for far too many people. Fans come to the ballpark from all over the Bay Area, from all over the state, from all over the country, and from all over the world. They can easily bring COVID with them, and take whatever they pick up here back to their homes and communities.

Is it going to take a strike to get safety and justice at the ballpark?

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.


Marc Norton
Marc Norton

Marc Norton has been a member of UNITE HERE Local 2 since 1976. He has worked as a dishwasher, steward, cook, bellman, and cashier.