Dr. Anthony Fauci is cautiously optimistic about the prospect of fans returning to the stands for the 2021 MLB season, telling ESPN’s Buster Olney that there is a “pretty good chance” that this will happen if the rate of the COVID-19 infections continue to fall.
“We might have a pretty good chance of a full season baseball season,” Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight podcast. “That we could have people in the stands, maybe not next to each other; there will be public health restrictions like wearing masks and the like.”
Fauci warned that visitor numbers would depend on current trends and that the full effect of certain coronavirus variants remains to be seen.
Spring training is expected to begin with limited fans across Florida and Arizona pending local approval. Teams like the Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros and Washington Nationals now have tickets on sale.
The participation of fans in the season is determined by the local communities. However, the clubs must submit a plan to the league office, which must be approved as recommended by their health professionals. The Tampa Bay Rays are a team that have announced a specific plan for the season opener in April – in their case, 7,000 fans at Tropicana Field.
Unsure when MLB will see the return of full stages, Fauci says 75-80% of the population would need to be vaccinated, with the infection rate staying very low.
ESPN’s Jesse Rogers contributed to this report.