For most of the past year, as the nation shuttered and struggled to fight the coronavirus, the Texas Rangers, following the lead of Gov. Greg Abbott, adopted more of a devil-may-care attitude toward the pandemic.
As millions stayed home, the Rangers urged their workers to report for duty at Globe Life Field, to the point an employee told ESPN employees were "terrified for their safety."
As Major League Baseball's 30 franchises played games without fans while adhering to local guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19, Texas and its Rangers flung its doors open to MLB, offering to host three rounds of postseason games as well as 25% occupancy for NLCS and World Series games.
And now, as municipalities and franchises tentatively welcome fans back for the 2021 season, the Lone Star State once again seems intent on displaying a rugged individualism that will set it apart from the rest, even at the risk of imperiling its population.
The Rangers on Wednesday announced they will impose no restrictions on attendance at Globe Life Field, inviting Texans to fill up their second-year ballpark 40,000 strong for their home opener April 5 against Toronto.
The Rangers' announcement comes eight days after Abbott lifted a statewide mask mandate and allowed businesses to operate at full capacity, rescinding "most of the executive orders" he'd issued since the virus began its spread in March 2020.
A view of Globe Life Field during Game 1 of the 2020 World Series. (Photo: Jerome Miron, USA TODAY Sports)
COVID-19 has killed more than 45,000 Texans.
“The Rangers are encouraged that the Governor’s Office has given clearance for us to fully open Globe Life Field at the start of the 2021 Major League Baseball season,” Neil Leibman, the Rangers' president of business operations and chief operating officer, said in a statement.
The Rangers will require masks to be worn by fans, "except when actively eating and drinking," according to Leibman, a loophole that many fans visibly utilized during playoff games at Globe Life in October.
It's also a sure-fire way to reduce a mask's efficacy, according to public-health experts.
“If you make an exception for booze, and everyone is drinking booze, then there’s no mask,” Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association, told USA TODAY Sports in January.
The team announced socially-distanced seating areas will be made available for games after Opening Day, when attendance typically wanes. Yet the vast majority of the stadium will be under no seating restrictions.
The Rangers are certainly an outlier among the 30 major league teams finalizing plans to host fans, with most falling around 20% to 30% capacity. Tuesday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan gave the Baltimore Orioles and other sports teams the green light to host fans at 50% capacity; Wednesday, the Orioles released a statement noting they were still consulting local public health officials and government leaders.
Major League Baseball has said it will defer to local health officials to determine appropriate capacities in their markets. Tarrant County, home of Globe Life Field, reports a "substantial" level of community spread on its COVID-19 dashboard; the seven-day average of test positivity is 8%, down from a peak of 30% in January, but worse than the 5% mark public-health experts often cite as a benchmark to loosen many restrictions.
The Rangers also stood largely alone in requiring employees to come back to work last June – up to 200, according to ESPN – resulting in an outbreak of COVID-19 cases six weeks after Abbott's May 2020 executive order lifting many restrictions on businesses.
Four months later, Globe Life Field played host to Game 1 of the World Series, and before the game honored "frontline heroes" who emerged, masked and socially distanced, into center field to be lauded by the crowd.
Minutes later, unmasked, Abbott was on the field to yell "play ball!"
Source: Read Full Article