COLUMBUS, Ohio — While an official decision has not yet been made, Gov. Mike DeWine said he believes the Indians, as well as other professional baseball teams in Ohio, will be able to start their seasons hosting fans at around 30% capacity.
DeWine said that he has been in communication with the Indians, the Reds and Ohio’s minor league teams to find out their plans to have fans in attendance.
The governor told the teams that he believes the starting point for fans will be 30% of their venue’s capacity but will depend on both their plans of COVID-19 mitigation as well as the development of the new variants of the virus across the state.
At Progressive Field, 30% capacity would translate to around 10,500 fans.
Last season, the Indians were unable to host fans at games during the shortened season but remained hopeful that fans could attend games this season—teaming up with the Cleveland Clinic to create guidelines for Progressive Field meant to prevent the spread of the virus among fans at games.
Pandemic response experts, as well as physicians from the Cleveland Clinic, are working with the Indians organization to provide up-to-date guidance on how to safely return fans to the ballpark as the season approaches. Included in the guidance will be health and training safety for staff, guidelines and disinfection plans for the venue, and branding around the ballpark to remind fans of health guidelines.
That planning will likely pay off well for the Indians organization as they discuss the potential of fans with DeWine, who said wearing masks and social distancing will remain a top priority.
“We can do that if everyone wears masks,” DeWine said. “When you add to that the factor of being outside, we think 30% is a logical place to start, provided they can also have the distancing that is required.”
DeWine and his team, as well as the local and county health departments, will review the teams’ plans before making an official decision.
While DeWine sounded confident in the initial 30% capacity for the Indians and other Ohio teams, he did make it clear that the coronavirus variant will play a big role in how the future of fans at games pans out in the upcoming months.
“The caution is that the variant is out there in Ohio and our best medical information is that it very well could become dominant by the latter part of March. We don’t really know what’s going to happen after that,” DeWine said. “We don’t know exactly where we’ll be on May 4, for example, when most of minor league baseball kicks in. So, what we hope is that we start at 30% and go from there but the caution that I conveyed to every minor league team and to the major league teams is that we don't know about this variant. We don't know what it means. We don't know what the spread is going to be. So we're optimistic.”
DeWine said the official decision and subsequent announcement regarding fans at professional baseball games this season will come on Thursday.