CLEVELAND — After announcing an expectation for the Indians, as well as other professional baseball teams in Ohio, to be able to start their seasons hosting fans at 30% capacity, Gov. Mike DeWine made the announcement official Thursday afternoon.
DeWine had been communicating with the Indians, the Reds and Ohio’s minor league teams to find out their plans to have fans in attendance in order to announce the plans for the upcoming season.
Indoor sporting venues will be able to host fans at 25% capacity this spring, while outdoor venues will be able to host fans at 30% capacity.
The governor told the teams that the starting point for fans will be either 25% or 30% of their venue’s capacity, depending on if it's indoor or outdoor, and if they can follow precautions might see an expansion into the summer.
"We're going to start at this point," DeWine said. "If the spring and summer go the way we think it's going to go, we're going to be able to expand these and move forward."
Precautions that the Indians and other teams must follow include mandatory mask wearing for employees at the ballpark and fans attending the game, pathways around the venue that allow for social distancing, and pod-style seating to separate households of no more than six people and mitigate the spread of the virus between different "bubbles."
At Progressive Field, 30% capacity translates to around 10,500 fans.
DeWine said venues such as Progressive Field can host standing rooms and infield seating as long as masks are worn and social distancing is adhered to.
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.
The Indians took to social media to announce to fans that they will be able to attend games this season.
DeWine sent minor league baseball teams a letter Thursday outlining some of the "basic principles" to allow fans to attend games this spring and summer amid the ongoing pandemic, which included:
1. The virus transmits best by airborne.
2. Masks work.
3. Distance matters. The further away you are from someone's face the better off you are.
4. Time and close proximity to another does matter. The longer you're close to another person who you don't live with, the more dangerous is that encounter.
5. Your bubble is smaller than you think. If someone does not live with you in the same home, they're not in your bubble no matter who they are.
6. Outdoors is better than indoors.
7. Big indoor areas are better than small indoor areas.
8. Washing hands often and avoiding touching surfaces both are very, very important.
While the initial plan is to allow 30% capacity for the Indians and other Ohio teams, DeWine 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.
"We're going to watch it and we're going to watch the early signs," DeWine said. "Could we roll it back? Sure, no responsible person would say that we might not do that. We might if that's where it is. I'm optimistic, I think we're moving in the right direction. We just have to be careful as we move forward."