OAKLAND — California fans can likely catch Major League Baseball games in person when the season begins in April, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday.
The Democratic governor said his administration is in the midst of “advanced” talks with MLB and county health officials about some fans attending games at outdoor ballparks. He said that could begin by opening day in April if California continues on its downward infection trajectory.
“I have all the confidence in the world fans will be back safely,” Newsom said.
An MLB representative did not respond to a request for comment, but the league said earlier this year that it would not condition fan attendance on negative coronavirus tests or vaccination.
Why it matters: Newsom and public health officials have long said major gatherings like sporting events would be among the last things to resume as society gradually emerges from the pandemic.
The fact that Newsom believes ballparks can safely allow some fans to attend — outside — is the latest indicator that Newsom has high confidence in California’s progress.
The background: California continues to see hospitalizations and infections plummet, with the statewide positive test rate standing at just 2.2 percent on Wednesday. Mass inoculation efforts are picking up pace as the state’s supply expands.
San Francisco has the state’s lowest daily infection rate among heavily populated counties at 3.5 cases per 100,000 residents. Alameda County across the bay is at a relatively low 6.3, while Los Angeles isn’t far behind at 7.2.
California is home to five MLB teams: the Oakland Athletics, the San Francisco Giants, the San Diego Padres, the Anaheim Angels and the reigning champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
Existing requirements: Under rules issued in October, the state requires professional sports teams to wait until their counties reach the second least restrictive orange tier before allowing fans to attend outdoor games. That would require a daily case rate below 3.9 per 100,000 residents — a level that few counties have reached since the state instituted its color-tier system last summer.
The state in late October was prepared to allow the San Francisco 49ers to bring fans back, but Santa Clara County quickly said it would not allow that to happen.
Under existing state rules, capacity would be limited to 20 percent in orange tier. Teams could only allow in-seat concessions and would have to limit attendees to those residing within 120 miles. In the yellow tier, teams could expand capacity to 25 percent.
What’s next: The A’s, Padres and Angels are all scheduled to open at home four weeks from Thursday on April 1. Allowing MLB teams to bring back fans by then may require looser thresholds than those already established.