Major League Baseball does not plan to mandate that fans provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result before entering a ballpark this year.
In a memo sent to teams Monday and obtained by the Los Angeles Times, the league outlined what it called its “minimum health and safety standards” for the 2021 season. The league noted that state and local authorities could mandate more restrictive standards and that all policies are subject to change as the public health situation in the United States changes.
The league completed its 2020 regular season without fans in attendance, because of the coronavirus pandemic. Monday’s memo was intended to help clubs plan “safely welcoming fans back to ballparks in 2021.”
In the memo, the league said teams could decide whether to require proof of vaccination, a negative COVID-19 test, and/or temperature checks but that MLB did not intend to mandate any of those steps. During the 2020 postseason, when MLB admitted a limited number of fans for the World Series and National League championship series in Arlington, Texas, the league did not require temperature checks.
In explaining why testing would not be mandated, the league said: “Mass testing of this kind is not practical with the existing rapid testing options, and testing is of limited utility when done days in advance of an event.” The league said its guidance could change in the event of “any major advancement in testing technology.”
The league said it anticipated that state and local authorities would require “pod” seating, at least at the start of the season, with tickets sold in a “pod” or group and at least six feet between the groups. If authorities do not require such seating, MLB would have to approve any seating arrangement that would reduce the distance between groups to less than six feet.
The league also said it would mandate that fans wear a mask at all times except when eating or drinking at their seats; that social distancing be enforced in lines to enter the ballpark, for concessions and merchandise, and when leaving the ballpark; that hand sanitizer and hand-washing stations be widely available; and that a buffer zone of at least six feet be established between fans and the playing field.
Spring training games are scheduled to start Feb. 27. No team has put tickets for spring games on sale.
According to the memo, teams are required to use pod seating and submit a health and safety plan to the league office for approval, in accordance with the MLB guidance. Fans will not be permitted to watch morning workouts or other pregame activities “unless those events are held in the ballpark under the same seating plan as for games.”