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Sam Allard / Scene
Mayor Justin Bibb speaks at Tower City in preparation for the NBA All-Star weekend, (1/31/22).
Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb announced a partnership with the Cleveland Cavaliers Monday that he said would accelerate the city toward its goal of a 60% vaccination rate by the end of 2022.
In the leadup to this month's NBA All-Star festivities, the Cavs will donate merchandise, including tickets to All-Star events and related swag, as incentives to those getting vaccinated or boosted and will contribute tests and masks for distribution by area organizations. The NBA will also reportedly contribute $100,000 to the Cleveland Foundation, which will then allocate it through the Covid-19 funders collaborative.
In prepared remarks delivered at a Tower City press conference, Bibb said that Cleveland's current vaccination rate of 46% was "not good enough" and that the NBA and Cavs' announced contributions were emblematic of an "intentional public-private partnership" that could lead to positive change.
"The NBA and Cavs have gone above and beyond," Bibb said. In addition to their contributions, the Cavs will make players and media personalities available to be a part of the city's public education campaign related to vaccination.
Bibb stressed that the health and safety of Cleveland residents remained his top priority as thousands of basketball fans from across the country and around the world descend on Cleveland for the NBA's annual showcase. To that end, he announced safety protocols for all ticketed events during All-Star weekend.
Those ages five and up will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test, (either a negative PCR test in the previous 48 hours or a negative antigen test that day). The city's mask advisory will remain in effect through All-Star weekend.
When asked why the city opted not to impose a mask mandate,
Bibb cited enforcement concerns and potential backlash. He said that with the protocols in place, he was confident that the events staged in and around Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse would be safe and secure.
Bibb said that the All-Star weekend would once again put Cleveland in a positive light nationally and would generate $100 million for the local economy. David Gilbert, Destination Cleveland CEO, specified that this figure connoted outside dollars that would not have been spent in the region otherwise, and that this estimate was based on research from past All-Star games. He said a third party would be contracted to conduct an audit of the economic effects.
To the extent the Cavs' participation moves the needle on Cleveland's 46% vaccination rate, especially in neighborhoods of color where rates are especially low, the support is welcome. But the resources the team and the league are prepared to contribute—which make for excellent PR—pale in comparison to the resources the city and county spend every six months to pay down interest on the $140 million in bonds the county borrowed for the Q Deal in 2017
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