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Ohio's pro teams might be able to play with stadiums at 30% capacity this spring

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Posted at 1:54 PM, Feb 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-22 16:02:12-05

CINCINNATI — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday said his state might allow professional sporting events to play with in-person spectators starting in April — with a few notable caveats.

“The target figure, we think, that we’re going to be able to start with, is 30% (capacity),” DeWine said.

But each team’s ability to welcome spectators will be dependent on its ability to enforce widespread mask-wearing, which DeWine has increasingly characterized as a lynchpin of COVID-era normality, and on the prevalence of more contagious variant strains of the virus.

If cases begin to rise, rather than fall; if parks can’t convince patrons to wear masks; and if more contagious strains of the virus drive daily case, death and hospitalization numbers over the line, DeWine said authorities might reconsider.

But in the pandemic landscape of Monday night, the governor said he was hopeful.

“We’re in this storm,” he said. “We’ve got to keep battling. What we know as far as the summer coming up, and the spring, is that we can do some of the things that maybe we didn’t think we could do before, but only if we have strict mask compliance. Mask compliance plus the vaccine is going to enable us to do some things this summer that we wouldn’t have thought about or that we shouldn’t have done last summer.”

For now, DeWine said his administration is in contact with Ohio’s professional teams and has encouraged them to develop plans for holding in-person events with COVID safety in mind. The state will examine them, as will local health departments, and evaluate whether these plans can adequately protect players, workers and spectators.

“We’re optimistic,” DeWine said. “We’re looking at a summer where more and more people are going to be vaccinated every day, where mask-wearing inside a ballpark — if that can occur, we think 30% is a reasonable place to start.”

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Senior Reporter Larry Seward is focusing his reporting on the COVID-19 vaccine to bring you answers and information. Contact Larry at 513-667-4804 or larry.seward@wcpo.com.