CDC Mask Update Huge For Fans, Sports Leagues

    • The Centers for Disease Control said that vaccinated people can gather indoors without masks.
    • Many teams responded by increasing their allowed capacity at games.

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The Centers for Disease Control issued new guidance last week stating that vaccinated people may go maskless indoors — an announcement with huge implications for sports leagues as they emerge from a tough year. 

The NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and NCAA lost more than $14 billion in combined revenue due to fans being unable to attend games. Now, many teams are already experimenting with wider capacity.

  • MLB: The Phillies, Twins, and Brewers laid out plans to increase to 100% capacity by June or July. The Braves, Diamondbacks, Nationals, and Rangers were already at or on the path to full capacity.
  • NBA: The Bucks and Mavericks will allow around 9,000 fans — roughly 50% capacity — for the playoffs, which begin May 22. The Jazz will double capacity to around 13,000.
  • NHL: The Blues and Predators will increase playoff capacity to 9,000 and 12,135, respectively. 
  • NFL: The league had already planned for full-capacity stadiums at the start of next season.

The Chicago Cubs and White Sox are going up to 60% capacity by the end of the month. Both allow fully vaccinated fans to sit closer together in a special section, as do the New York Yankees and Mets, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and several other teams, some of which partner with the tech company CLEAR on a vaccine verification system.

Many businesses, including Starbucks, Costco, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, and Publix, said they would drop their mask requirement for vaccinated people, and use an honor system in lieu of verifying vaccination status. Most casinos on the Las Vegas Strip have dropped mask requirements, too.

The Yankees had a recent outbreak in which eight staff members and shortstop Gleyber Torres tested positive for COVID-19, despite all being fully vaccinated. The CDC said that a small number of these “breakthrough” infections are to be expected.