Tom Werner, chairman of Boston Red Sox, told CNBC Thursday that he did not expect any coronavirus outbreaks that would materially change the course of the Major League Baseball season.
Werner’s comments on “Squawk Box” came on opening day with a full list of games on the schedule involving all 30 teams. It’s the start of the second MLB season held during the pandemic following last year’s shortened campaign.
“I’m sure we have gone beyond what we were six months ago. The baseball protocols are very strong. The players heed them,” Werner said. “Sure, I think there might be an outbreak on occasion, but I think it will be a rare occurrence when some games are canceled.”
A Washington Nationals player tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this week, and some teammates are being quarantined after contact tracing. The team’s opening day matchup with the New York Mets remains scheduled from Thursday morning.
Some coronavirus protocols could relax for teams this season once a certain vaccination threshold is reached. While not many MLB players have been vaccinated yet, the league expects that number will rise once the teams are back in their hometowns after spring training, according to the Associated Press.
The 2020 season was delayed by months after the pandemic hit the US, but a 60-game schedule finally began in July. Dozens of games were postponed during the season due to Covid cases, despite making the playoffs as planned, and the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series in late October.
Boston Red Sox members watch during a team training session prior to the 2021 opening game on March 31, 2021 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.
Billie Weiss | Boston Red Sox | Getty Images
This year the schedule for 162 games is back – as are the fans in the stadiums. Last year regular season games were played in empty stadiums. Limited viewers were allowed to participate in a few playoff competitions in the fall.
At the start of the season, capacity at the Red Sox’s historic home, Fenway Park, is limited to 12%, which is just over 4,500 fans, according to NBC Boston.
Werner hopes that the number will only increase in the coming months when more Americans are vaccinated against Covid.
“I certainly don’t have a crystal ball, but we hope the vaccine rollout continues to proceed swiftly and I would certainly hope that the stadiums will be at full capacity by the end of the season,” he said.
About 29% of the US population had received at least one dose of Covid vaccine by Wednesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This includes around 16% of the country’s population who are fully vaccinated.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses for complete protection of immunity, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single shot. These are the only three emergency vaccinations approved in the United States