COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio's major league sports teams beginning their seasons this spring could be allowed up to 30% of fan capacity under approved pandemic plans, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Monday.
Permitting 30% of fans into stadiums would be contingent on social distancing and continued mask wearing, the governor said. He planned a formal announcement Thursday. The expanded fan capacity would apply to the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds along with minor league baseball teams and the Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati major league soccer clubs.
“We can do that if everyone is masked,” DeWine said, adding that the state has learned a lot from the experience of mask-wearing in schools. “Kids have been relatively close together and yet we’ve not seen the spread in classrooms,” he said.
These plans could change if the coronavirus variant becomes dominant in Ohio by the end of next month, DeWine cautioned.
Not every team plans to allow that many fans. Minor league baseball’s Toledo Mud Hens announced Friday that the club will allow 1,500 fans per game -- roughly 15% of the 10,300 seats at Fifth Third Field.
The Mud Hens plan to open at home on April 6 after seeing their entire 2020 season canceled. Other teams have yet to announce specific plans. DeWine said he's had extensive conversations with the Reds and Indians.
For Cleveland, 30% could mean as many as 10,000 fans in the city's downtown ballpark, which holds more than 35,000.
Also Monday, DeWine said that as the number of cases plummet in nursing homes, visitation could be expanded soon. In addition, the governor has written to long-term care facilities reminding them to frequently check their county's positivity rates, which play a role in visitation rules.
Compassionate care visitation should always be offered, meaning in cases where residents' well-being is at risk, the governor said.
More than 1.4 million people in Ohio have received at least the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine as of Monday, or about 12% of the population.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 3,489 new cases per day on Feb. 7 to 2,060 new cases per day on Feb. 21, according to an Associated Press analysis of data provided by The COVID Tracking Project.
Associated Press writers John Seewer in Toledo and Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.