Boston Red Sox chairman hopes Covid game cancellations will be a ‘rare event’ this MLB season

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Boston Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner told CNBC on Thursday he does not expect coronavirus outbreaks to significantly alter the course of the Major League Baseball season.

Werner’s comments on “Squawk Box” came on Opening Day, with a full slate of games on the schedule featuring all 30 teams. It marks the start of the second MLB season played during the pandemic, following last year’s shortened campaign.

“I certainly think that we’ve gone beyond where we were six months ago. The protocols in baseball are very strong. The players are heeding them,” Werner said. “Sure, I think there might an occasional outbreak, but I do think it will be a rare event if some games are canceled.”

A Washington Nationals player tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this week, and some teammates are quarantining following contact tracing. The team’s Opening Day matchup with the New York Mets remains scheduled, as of Thursday morning.

Some coronavirus protocols could relax for teams this season once a certain vaccination threshold is met. While not many MLB players have been vaccinated yet, the league anticipates that number to rise once teams are back in their home cities from Spring training, according to the Associated Press.

The 2020 season was delayed for months after the pandemic hit the U.S., but eventually a 60-game schedule got underway in July. Dozens of games ended up being postponed during the season due to Covid cases, although it progressed as planned to the playoffs, and the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series in late October.

Members of the Boston Red Sox look on during a team workout ahead of the 2021 Opening Day game on March 31, 2021 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.
Billie Weiss | Boston Red Sox | Getty Images

This year, the 162-game schedule is back — and so are fans at ballparks. Last year, regular-season games were played in empty stadiums. Limited spectators were allowed to attend some playoff contests in the fall.

To start the season, capacity at the Red Sox’s historic home, Fenway Park, is capped at 12%, which equates to a little over 4,500 fans, according to NBC Boston.

Werner said he hopes that number will only increase in the months ahead as more Americas are vaccinated against Covid.

“I certainly don’t have a crystal ball, but we’re hoping … the vaccine rollout continues to be expeditious, and I would certainly hope that, by the end of the season, stadiums will be at full capacity,” he said.

About 29% of the U.S. population has received at least one Covid vaccine dose, as of Wednesday, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That includes roughly 16% of the country’s population who are fully vaccinated.

The vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna require two doses for full immunity protection, while Johnson & Johnson‘s vaccine is a single shot. Those are the only three inoculations approved for emergency use in the U.S.

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